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Full text of "The life of Sophia Jex-Blake"

THE LIFE OF SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 



MONA MACLEAN 

FELLOW TRAVELLERS 

WINDYHAUGH 

THE WAY OF ESCAPE 

GROWTH 










>t'/.>/Ufl J***'-^ ' 
at tJu ayf ff' 



THE LIFE OF 
SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 



BY 

MARGARET JpDQ, M.D. 

(GRAHAM TRAVERS) 



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED 
ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON 
1918 



COPYRIGHT 



GLASGOW : PRINTED AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS 
BY ROBERT MACI.EHOSE AND CO. LTD. 



TO ALL THOSE 
MENTIONED IN THE FOLLOWING PAGES 

OR PASSED OVER 
FROM IGNORANCE OR WANT OF SPACE, 

WHO LENT A HELPING HAND 
TO A BRAVE AND UNSELFISH FIGHTER, 

THIS BOOK IS 
GRATEFULLY DEDICATED 



PREFACE 

THERE are several reasons why it has seemed worth while 
to write the life of Sophia Jex-Blake at some length. 

1. She was one of the people who really do live. In the 
present day a woman is fitted into her profession almost as 
a man is. Sixty years ago a highly dowered girl was faced 
by a great venture, a great quest. The life before her was 
an uncharted sea. She had to find her self, to find her way, 
to find her work. In many respects youth was incomparably 
the most interesting period of a life history. 

2. S. J.-B. has left behind her (as probably no woman of 
equal power has done) the record of this quest. She was a 
born chronicler : almost in her babyhood she struggled 
laboriously to get on to paper her doings and dreams ; and 
she was truthful to a fault. We have here the kind of thing 
that is constantly " idealised " in present day fiction, have it 
in actual contemporary record, with the added interest that 
here the story begins in an olcl-world conservative medium, 
and passes through the life of the modern educated working 
girl into the history of a great movement, of which the 
chronicler was indeed magnet pars. The reader will see 
how more and more as the years went on S. J.-B.'s motto 
became " Not me, but us," till one is tempted to say that 
she was the movement, that she stood, as it were, for women. 

3. That, so to speak, was her "job"; but she never 
grew one-sided ; never forgot the man's point of view. 



viii PREFACE 

No woman ever took a saner and wider view of human 
affairs. 

4. In spite of the heavy strain thrown by conflicting out- 
look and ideals on the relation between parents and child, 
the reader will see in the following pages how that relation- 
ship was preserved. This is perhaps the most remarkable 
thing in the whole history, and it is full of significance and 
helpful suggestion for us all in these critical days. 

5. And lastly, it proved impossible to write the life in any 
other way. When S. J.-B. was a young woman, Samuel 
Laurence was asked by her parents to make a crayon draw- 
ing of her. After some hours' work, he threw down his 
pencil. " I must get you in oils or not at all," he said. 

Those words have often been in the mind of the author 
of this book. 



CONTENTS 

PART 1 
CHAPTER I 

PAGE 

CHILDHOOD - 1 

Birth, parentage and descent Early influences " Sweet 
Sackermena." 

CHAPTER II 

SCHOOL LIFE ... II 

A " terrible pickle " Home letters Holidays " Poems " 
A confession. 

CHAPTER III 

SCHOOL LIFE Continued, - 24 

Indifferent health Various educational experiments S. J.-B.'s 
character as seen by her schoolfellows. 

CHAPTER IV 

SCHOOL LIFE Concluded, - - . '...,. *, ''** 35 

Leaves school abruptly Fresh start Illness of her mother 
and sister Letter from her father Confirmation. 

CHAPTER V 

LIFE AT HOME - . * . 50 

Friendship with her mother Dreams of authorship Self- 
centred life Makes acquaintance of Norfolk cousins. 



x CONTENTS 

CHAPTER VI 

PAGE 

LIFE AT QUEEN'S COLLEGE 62 

Comes into touch with Feminist movement Goes to Queen's 
College Friction Hunt for lodgings Is appointed mathe- 
matical tutor Correspondence with her father as to accept- 
ing payment for her work Certificate won " with great 
credit." 

CHAPTER VII 

FRIENDSHIP .... 78 

All-round development Capacity for friendship and service 
Friendship with Miss Octavia Hill. 



CHAPTER VIII 

A STEP BEYOND - 95 

Confidence in her mother Fresh dedication of her life. 

CHAPTER IX 

FIRST EXPERIENCE OF EDINBURGH ... 103 

The problem of realizing the vision Goes to study educational 
methods in Edinburgh Chequered experiences Church- 
going and religious difficulties Consults Rev. Dr. Pulsford 
Letters from her mother An " increasing purpose." 



CHAPTER X 

GERMANY - 117 

Miss Garrett's efforts to obtain medical education Comes to 
prospect in Edinburgh She and S. J.-B. go canvassing 
together Disappointment S. J.-B.'s desire to study educa- 
tional methods farther afield Germany Gottingen Mann- 
heim Appointed English teacher at Grand-ducal Institute. 



CHAPTER XI 

LIFE AS A TEACHER AT MANNHEIM - . 129 

Letters to her mother Success of her work Transient wave 
of unpopularity Letter to her mother on Biblical criticism. 



CONTENTS xi 

CHAPTER XII 

FACE 

VARIOUS PROJECTS AND VENTURES - - - 147 

Return home delayed by scarlet fever Death of a college 
friend Mr. Plumptre recommends S. J.-B. as founder and 
Lady Principal of modern Girls' School at Manchester. 




- 159 

Opposition of parents Goes to Boston Makes acquaintance 
of Dr. Lucy Sewall R. W. Emerson Dinner at the Emer- 
sons Visits Niagara Inspects various colleges (Oberlin, 
Hillsdale, St. Louis, Antioch) and schools Correspondence 
with her brother Views on American education. 



CHAPTER XIV 

QUESTIONINGS - - -.- 172 

Gets to know women doctors in Boston Assists with dis- 
pensing in New England Hospital .for Women Gradual 
initiation into hospital work Heart-searchings as to her 
own future Law ? The Ministry ? Religious difficulties 
Medicine ? 



CHAPTER XV 

PIONEER WORK IN AMERICA - 188 

Writes " A Visit " Published by Macmillan Good reviews 
Begins study of medicine Application to Harvard Letters 
from Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and Dr. Brown-Sequard 
Obtains clinical teaching in Massachusetts General Hospital 
Goes to New York Obtains private teaching in anatomy 
Summing up of three years in America. 



CHAPTER XVI 

GOING HOME - - - 202 

Visit of Dr. Sewall to England Rapprochement between 
S. J.-B. and her father Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Emily Black- 
well found Medical College for Women in New York S. J.-B. 
starts house-keeping and medical study there Illness of her 
father Return to England. 



xii CONTENTS 

PART II 
CHAPTER I 

PAGE 

DRIFTING - - r - - 213 

Life at Brighton Perplexities as to future education. 

CHAPTER II 

AT THE GATES OF THE CITADEL - - 218 

Correspondence with Mrs. Butler, Professor Sidgwick and others 
as to possibility of University training Goes to Edinburgh 
Canvasses professors. 

CHAPTER III 

SUCCESS? - .... 232 

Support of Scotsman Formal application to Dean of Medical 
Faculty Consent (a) of Medical Faculty, (b) of Senatus, to 
receive S. J.-B. as a student. 

CHAPTER IV 

A CHECK - - - 242 

S. J.-B.'s run of popularity Difficulties of situation Decision 
of Senatus vetoed by University Court. 

CHAPTER V 

OPENING OF EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY TO WOMEN - - 253 

S. J.-B. reinforced by Mrs. Thome and Miss Pechey Dr. King 
Chambers tries and fails to get women admitted to St. 
Mary's Hospital Edinburgh University Court agrees to 
admit women to separate classes. 

CHAPTER VI 

THE HOPE SCHOLARSHIP - ... 262 

More lady students Gives Academiae Edinensis Difficulty of 
getting teachers Miss Pechey deprived of Hope Scholarship 
Newspaper support and opposition Differences among 
professors. 



CONTENTS xiii 

CHAPTER VII 

PAGE 

PRACTICAL DIFFICULTIES - - I * ,, - 276 

Science classes Efforts to get anatomical teaching Corre- 
spondence in the Lancet. 

CHAPTER VIII 

THE RIOT AT SURGEONS' HALL - - 285 

Women begin study of anatomy Apply for admission to 
Royal Infirmary Opposition and support The riot 
Defence of women students by " Irish Brigade " and other 
friendly students Great newspaper controversy Annual 
Meeting of Royal Infirmary Crowded audience Removal to 
St. Giles' Church S. J.-B. speaks The first woman since 
Jenny Geddes to speak in that place Professor Christison's 
protest and S. J.-B.'s retort Hubbub " Fighting with 
beasts at Ephesus " Formation of " National Association." 

CHAPTER IX 

THE ACTION FOR LIBEL .-j.'r - - 306 

Dr. Christison's assistant brings action for libel against S. J.-B. 
Her brother's support She speaks at suffrage meeting in 
London Makes acquaintance of Rt. Hon. James Stansf eld 
The action for libel Damages one farthing, but heavy costs 
Criticisms of the verdict. 



CHAPTER X 

SOME FRIENDSHIPS AND HOLIDAYS -" - - 320 

1000 raised by public subscription to defray costs of action 
S. J.-B. takes holiday in Paris Commune Visit of Dr. Lucy 
Sewall to England. 



CHAPTER XI 

THE QUESTION OF PROFESSIONAL EXAMINATION - ; 330 

Continued practical difficulty in getting teaching and as to 
professional examination -Counsel's opinion taken by both 
sides Friendly professors and others Women refused 
entrance to first professional examination, but in response to 
lawyer's letter are admitted and pass Move and counter- 
move. 



xiv CONTENTS 



CHAPTER XII 

PAGE 

THE ROYAL INFIRMARY - - * 340 

Marriage of several of the lady students Continuance of 
struggle in Edinburgh together with enquiries as to chances 
elsewhere Sympathy of Professor Sidgwick and Mr. James 
Stuart Rev. Dr. Guthrie Infirmary Annual Meeting again 
Success of the Women's party " Ring out the old ! " 
Question of legality of votes of firms Litigation Success 
S. J.-B. a public character. 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE ACTION AGAINST THE SENATUS - 352 

Impasse Friends and well-wishers advise appeal to Court of 
Law University Court suggests that lady matriculated 
students should give up right to graduation and be content 
with certificates of proficiency S. J.-B. and others bring 
Action of Declarator against Senatus to define position 
Much searching of archives for evidence Senatus decides to 
defend action, but six professors dissent. 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE LORD ORDINARY'S JUDGMENT - - 362 

S. J.-B. lectures in London on the whole situation Lord 
Shaftesbury in chair Difference with Mrs. Butler S. J.-B. 
publishes Medical Women Lord Ordinary decides substanti- 
ally in favour of women students Widespread congratula- 
tions. 

CHAPTER XV 

PAYING THE PRICE --,..*. .. . 377 

Many claims, medical, legal, journalistic, etc., on S. J.-B. 
Gift of 1000 from Mr. Walter Thomson S. J.-B. is rejected 
in first professional examination Newspaper interest and 
enquiries Sympathy. 



CHAPTER XVI 



END OF THE BATTLE IN EDINBURGH - . 388 

Interest of Rt. Hon. James Stansfeld Introduces S. J.-B. to 
some of his colleagues in the Cabinet S. J.-B. works hard 
and successfully for first election of women on Edinburgh 
School Board University appeals against Lord Ordinary's' 



CONTENTS xv 



decision Persevering efforts of all the women students to get 
on with their education somehow and somewhere St. 
Andrews Durham Ireland Edinburgh Court of Session 
(thirteen judges) decides by narrow majority in favour of 
University The judgment of the Lord Justice Clerk. 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE QUESTION IN PARLIAMENT - - - . - 398 

Increasing public and newspaper interest and criticism Mrs. 
Anderson writes to Times, strongly advising women to study 
abroad and practise without registration S. J.-B. replies 
University censured in press Apologia of Principal and 
S. J.-B.'s reply Sir David Wedderburn's notice of Bill to 
reduce vote to Scottish Universities by amount of salaries of 
Edinburgh professors withdrawn on hearing of Lord Ordi- 
nary's judgment S. J.-B. again interviews Home Secretary 
and members of Cabinet Things looking well when Glad- 
stone dissolves Parliament and appeals to country ! S. J.-B. 
interviews Mr. Russell Gurney and others At Mr. Cowper 
Temple's request she and her solicitor draft " A Bill to remove 
doubts as to the power of Scottish Universities " She is 
summoned to London to discuss matter Bill introduced and 
sixty-five petitions at once presented in its favour Fails to 
get through In debate on motion the two members for 
Edinburgh (Town and Gown) join issue. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THE LONDON SCHOOL OF MEDICINE FOR WOMEN - - 415 

Discussion in Parliament calls all latent opposition into play 
S. J.-B.'s failure to pass examination used as weapon against 
the women She questions justice of rejection A great 
mistake Reproaches By advice of Dr. Anstie and Mr. 
Norton she founds the London School of Medicine for Women 
Miss Irby's visit to it. 



CHAPTER XIX 

THE RUSSELL GURNEY ENABLING ACT * - 423 

Difference between S. J.-B. and Mrs. Anderson, who nevertheless 
joins Council of School Mr. Cowper Temple brings forward 
his Bill again, and, after defeat, brings forward a " Foreign 
Degrees Bill," which is also defeated Lord Sandon on 
behalf of Government admits importance of question Mr. 
Simon suggests that women should qualify by means of 
examination in Midwifery only, as was then possible This 
agreed to after legal enquiries, and the women students send 



xvi CONTENTS 



in their names, but examiners resign S. J.-B.'s longing to 
break away and do rough hospital work in Bosnia Deputa- 
tion to President of Privy Council " Foreign Degrees Bill " 
again defeated, but Government intimate to Mr. Russell 
Gurney that he should bring in an " Enabling Bill " 
Though late in session this passes and becomes law Miss 
Pechey and Miss Shove induce Irish College to avail itself of 
ability conferred by new Act The Woman Hater. 



CHAPTER XX 

Ax LAST -*''' - -": i-' 436 

S. J.-B. and Miss Pechey study and graduate at Berne, and 
obtain Licence of Irish College. 



CHAPTER XXI 

THE ROYAL FREE HOSPITAL '.-.' . 441 

Hospital training still refused to the women coming on Mr. 
Stansfeld introduces S. J.-B. to Chairman of Royal Free 
Hospital, whom he has already interested in the matter 
R.F.H. opened to women Opening of London University 
to women In organisation of London School for Women, 
S. J.-B. is set aside Mrs. Thorne becomes Hon. Secretary 
persona grata Retrospect. 



PART III 

CHAPTER I 

EARLY DAYS IN PRACTICE - -455 

Special difficulties of women doctors in general and of S. J.-B. 
in particular Opens Dispensary Assistance of distinguished 
Edinburgh doctors Early success Letters to colleagues 
and friends Views on Suffrage and on life in general. 



CHAPTER II 

LAST ILLNESS OF MRS. JEX-BLAKE - .,,' 470 

S. J.-B. called south for last time Unavailing efforts Death 
of Mrs. Jex- Blake. 



CONTENTS xvii 



CHAPTER III 

PAGE 

PATIENTS AND FRIENDS - >;<. - -*'.?;>:. ,* 476 

S. J.-B. removes to Bmntsfield Lodge Letters to old friends 
Interest in education of girls Views on problems and 
mysteries of life Paying and non-paying guests Begin- 
nings of Edinburgh Hospital for Women and Children Her 
love of poetry Her books. 



CHAPTER IV 

PUBLIC LIFE - ... 490 

Interest in all public questions relating to women Too 
masterful and uncompromising in working with others 
Publishes The Care of Infants Her cooperation much in 
demand in parliamentary business Assists Edinburgh 
lecturers in their efforts to obtain charter Efforts fail, but 
examinations of Conjoint Colleges thrown open to women 
Re-publication of Medical Women The Englishwoman's 
Year Book Health Lecture to Women Founding of 
Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women Its difficulties 
Opposition. 

CHAPTER V 

RE-OPENING OF EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY TO WOMEN - 502 

S. J.-B. writes article for Nineteenth Century Views on 
marriage, etc. Her Hindu students Appointed a lecturer on 
Midwifery in the Extra-Mural School Death of Dr. Lucy 
Sewall S. J.-B.'s renewed efforts to gain admission for 
women to St. Andrews Final appeal to her own Alma 
Mater " to decide a question which has been under con- 
sideration for twenty-five years " Success Congratulations 
from members of " National Association " S. J.-B.'s 
characteristics as doctor and as citizen. 



CHAPTER VI 

DRIVING TOURS. ANIMAL FRIENDS - . 513 

CHAPTER VII 

THE SABBATICAL YEAR - -523 

Search for a suitable house Send-off from friends in Edin- 
burgh Windydene Life in retirement Fruit-growing 
Dairy Frien ds Books Winters abroad Interest in 
public affairs Distrust of Germany Suffrage Death of 
Professor Masson S. J.-B.'s religious attitude Health 
Last illness. 



xviii CONTENTS 

APPENDICES 

PA<;E 

A. Pedigree of the Jex-Blake family. Origin of compound 

surname - ?* 543 

B. "Words for the Way." No. 2. Rest - * 544 

C. Conclusions from "A Visit to American Schools and 

Colleges " - - 548 

D. The Edinburgh Extra-Mural School - 551 

E. Letter to the Times in reply to Mrs. Garrett Anderson 552 

F. Letter to the Times in reply to the Principal of Edin- 

burgh University - - 555 

G. Permanent Memorials of S. J.-B. - ; r 563 

INDEX - - 565 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE - - Frontispiece 

From a painting by Samuel Laurence 

THOMAS JEX-BLAKE - To face p. 70 

From a drawing in chalks by Henry T. Wells, R.A. 

MARIA EMILY JEX-BLAKE - 384 

From a drawing in chalks by Henry T. Wells, R.A. 

SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE - 4 8 4 



PART I 



OUR great interest in biography is due to the desire to see that 
the " child is father to the man " ; in other words, to see how, 
from boyhood to manhood and from manhood to old age, 
through all change of circumstances and all widening of intel- 
lectual and practical interests, we can detect the same unique, 
individual nature, and link each new expression of it in speech 
and action with that which preceded it. EDWARD CAIRO 



CHAPTER I 
CHILDHOOD 

SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE was born on the 2ist January, 1840. 
" How happy I was with my Baby this time two and twenty 
years ago ! " writes Mrs. Jex-Blake on the 2ist January, 1862, 
and, if she had greater cause than some mothers for the 
plaintive note that one seems to hear through the words, 
she was the first to rejoice in her great compensations. 

Certainly no baby ever had a warmer welcome into the 
world. At the time of her birth, her father, Mr. Thomas 
Jex-Blake, a proctor of Doctors' Commons, was living the 
life of a retired gentleman with his wife at 3 Croft Place, 
Hastings. Both parents, though no longer young, and in 
some ways older than their years, were devotedly fond of 
children, and a number of disappointments had shadowed 
their married life. In January, 1840, their son, Thomas 
William, was eight years of age, and their daughter, 
Caroline, a staid little maiden of six. The home was 
crying out for a real baby, and all were prepared to treat 
the newcomer as a little queen. 

And most royally did the little queen step into the posi- 
tion lying at her feet. There was no doubt at all that she 
meant to live. She was vital to the finger-tips, a thoroughly 
wholesome little animal, with a pair of great luminous eyes, 
too mature for a baby, though they retained the child look 
for three score years and ten. 

The Baby came of an excellent stock. 1 On both sides she 
was descended from well-known Norfolk families, whose 

1 Appendix A. 



2 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

lineage will be found in Burke's Landed Gentry. Her father 
was the son of William Jex- Blake of Swanton Abbots, and 
her mother the daughter of Thomas Cubitt of Honing Hall. 
It sounds old-world and picturesque, like Trollope's novels 
or a landscape by Constable. 

On the other hand, the Baby as in later years she never 
tired of saying " came in with the. penny post." New 
ideas were surging up on every side. When one thinks of 
her parentage, her heredity, and the tendencies of the world 
outside, one can scarcely imagine a more varied lot of elements 
from which to build up a life. Of the fairies who came to 
her christening, some brought great gifts, and some great 
opportunities, and, when the cradle was full, one can almost 
hear them say, " What now, little girl, will you make of 
that ? " 

Of all the gifts we know well which she considered the 
greatest. " No child ever had better parents than I ! " 
" How I wish you had known my Mother ! " Such words 
were constantly on her lips. Throughout life, when she was 
making holiday, she loved to go back to old Hastings, to point 
out to some intimate friend the house where she was born, 
the church St. Clement's where she was baptised ; to 
wander about the old castle, and note the very rocks which 
had afforded the most delightful scrambling-ground when 
she was a child. There was a special point in some country 
walk associated with the picture of her Father bending his 
tall figure to hold her hand, while he talked to her of " the 
terrible things people were doing in France." 

" No one ever had a happier childhood than I." 

In many ways she was extraordinarily fortunate in her 
parents. One cannot go through the long series of carefully 
preserved letters written to their youngest child without 
feeling tempted to say that better people never lived. Abso- 
lutely upright in all their dealings, devoted and unselfish in 
their affection, single-heartedly religious, regarding themselves 
strictly as stewards of the wealth Providence had bestowed 
on them, they really were the fine flower of old Evangelical 
Anglicanism. One seldom sees a husband and wife so en- 
tirely of one mind as to what are the things that matter. 



CHILDHOOD 3 

And if the Mother Maria Emily Cubitt was the one to 
bring to the union the keen wit, the happy humour, which 
her children inherited and loved to recall, her husband was 
the first to acknowledge and rejoice in her gifts. He was her 
proud lover to the day of his death. Family tradition made 
it a matter of course that they should have a luxurious home, 
and that all the appointments of their life should be good, 
but the note of self-denial was always telling resolutely and 
unobtrusively. It was her younger daughter's boast in later 
years that Mrs. Jex- Blake " would have made a splendid 
poor man's wife ; " and the vulgar criticism was significant 
of their whole attitude towards life, that " the Jex- Blake's 
carriage was as fine as any in the place, but there was always 
a poor person in it". 

What made this attitude all the finer was the fact that 
neither husband nor wife was ever tempted to undervalue 
social distinctions. It was noblesse oblige always, the 
noblesse of family as much as the noblesse of Christ. 

Surely better people never lived, and yet, as human standards 
go, the world which they built around them was scarcely a 
spacious world. " I have learnt far more from my children 
than they ever learned from me," Mrs. Jex-Blake used to 
say with characteristic generosity in her old age, and hers 
was one of the minds that grow and develop up to the last : 
but in some ways the Evangelicalism of her middle life 
even with the advantage of her most gracious representation 
of its tenets was a cramping thing. While Caroline and 
Sophia were still in the nursery, their parents had resolved, 
from the best of motives, to deny them the social advantages 
which their mother had enjoyed before them. Dancing and 
theatre-going were wrong ; novels were mainly trash ; Punch 
was "vulgar". "Christ's kingdom" was the one thing 
worth considering Christ's kingdom as represented by the 
popular preachers of the day. " The mission field " was the 
great object of enthusiasm. After reading much contem- 
porary correspondence one is tempted to say that the making 
of pen-wipers and book-markers for missionary bazaars was 
the work fitly to be expected of a Christian gentleman's 
daughter. 



4 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

From her cradle the elder sister seems to have accepted 
this view of life. Her fine and massive intellect bowed to the 
limitations imposed upon it. Her strong character asserted 
itself in many ways, but never so as to give her parents the 
proverbial " hour's anxiety ". 

And, for better or worse, into this atmosphere Sophia 
Jex-Blake was born. One can scarcely wonder that she 
came as a little queen. " Brother " was already at school, 
his foot on the first step of a brilliant career ; " Sweet Carrie " 
was all that loving parents expected her to be ; the new 
thing came as a complete surprise. The freshness, the wilful- 
ness, the naughtiness of her were as the wine of life to these 
staid, law-abiding people. It took their breath away some- 
times, but it was all on so small a scale, and were not all the 
forces of religion in reserve to check any undue waywardness 
as soon as she was old enough to understand ? 

The earliest samples of her handwriting are two letters 
addressed to her brother, undated, but written laboriously 
in " half-text " between double lines. The quotation and 
punctuation marks are added by another hand. 

" DEAR BROTHER, 

Your note was much ' amiss,' 
But as you sent sixpence, 
I pardon the offence, 
And kindly send you this. 

S. L. J. B." 

and again : 

" DEAR BROTHER, 

I must say I think you very impertinent, however I condes- 
cend to write to you. If you write a word more nonsense your head 
shall be off. I am your humble servant grand mogul." 

" Entirely her own composition " is the postscript added in 
her father's handwriting. 

No doubt they spoilt her, and she must still have been 
very young when her audacity and wilfulness began to cause 
her parents real anxiety. In January, 1847, her Mother writes: 

" DEAR SOPHY, 

I am very pleased with your marker, I think it nicely done 
for you. I wish you many happy returns of your birthday now 



CHILDHOOD 5 

you are seven years old I hope you will pray for the Holy Spirit 
to keep you from sin, from disobedience, and from violence of temper. 
I send you as a text for your birthday 16 Proverbs 32, and I trust 
you will try hard to act upon it. ... I hope you take all the care 
you can of dear Papa he says you are very good. Brother sends 

I am your affectionate Mother, 

MARIA EMILY JEX-BLAKE." 

A day or two later she writes again : 

" I am very glad to hear you had such a happy birthday how 
kind in Mary to give you that nice tea-pot. I hope you remember 
to thank God for giving you so many kind friends. Be sure to take 
all the care you can of dear Papa, and if he takes you for a walk do 
not let him talk. 

I miss Papa's nice explaining God's word every morning at prayers, 
you must tell me what it has been about. 

We like Brighton and I think I am stronger, but we shall be very 
glad to be home again. I hope Mary takes care about the poor 
people's broth and the puddings for the sick children. I long to see 
all my poor friends again, but I trust some one visits them and that 
they do not miss me. Papa must go and read with Mrs. P. when he 
is able and with Mrs. C. . . . Ask Mr. Macleane to bring you back 
with him in his pocket, when he returns on Monday. Show him 
how quiet you can be." 

It is clear the teaching of religion had already begun, if 
indeed there was ever a time when it had not, the teaching 
of such genuine heartfelt religion ! under symbols that never 
were suited to the mind of a sensitive child. So it is not 
surprising that she was not always the Grand Mogul, poor 
little soul ! The next papers that survive are in a totally 
different vein. They are written when she was seven or 
eight years old, and the handwriting, though far from 
beautiful, is much better formed. 

" DEAR MRS. BLAKE, 

I wish you would be so kind as to come and see me every 
night in Bed-ford-shire at least tonight on Sunday Monday Tuesday 
Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday and next Sunday after 
tomorrow. I require an answer to this note (letter) even if you do 
come tonight. There are now so many railroads that you can get 
to Bedfordshire in one minute. Please send ' Madam Mary ' with 
this and then come up. 

GRAND AFLORER." 



6 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

The true inwardness of this request appears in a private 
paper probably of an earlier date, folded up and labelled 
on the outside, " A Prayer to be Said After an unhappy 
Night." 

" Oh Lord I beseech Thee take away my fears of a night, for 
Thou alone knowest what miseries I this night have suffered. O 
Lord, I beseech Thee this day enable me to behave as I ought. 
O Lord, I beseech Thee to make me a Christain child . . . take away 
my doubts and fears. ..." 

In the next letter endorsed by her Mother, " 7th May, 
1848 " she says, 

" I whant to tell you that I feel so much less fear of a night. . . . 

" I will never say again (as I fear I often have) that God does not 
hear my prayer or that I do not derive comfort from it. ... Please 
(for you say please wins everything) do not show this to anybody 
not even to dear Papa. 

S. L. B." 

Clearly the child at this time was learning to read and 
write. Of any formal teaching no record has been kept, but, 
if anything of the kind existed, it can have made no great 
demand on her brain power, which began at this time to find 
expression in a somewhat unusual way. 

In common with most children, she dreamed dreams, but 
her dreams were not the random visions of an hour. They 
were singularly coherent and consecutive, aiming at nothing 
less than the construction of an ideal state ruled by a " des- 
potic emperor " in some wonderful islands lying in an un- 
known sea. She was unable to throw the creations of her 
brain into anything like literary form, but numberless papers 
have been preserved, varying from large official-looking blue 
foolscap sheets giving the " constitution " of the state, down 
to tiny scraps about the minutest detail connected with it. 

There are many maps of the islands, of which the largest, 
Sackermena, gave its name to the group ; and these are 
supplemented by numberless poems in which she strove to 
give expression to the feelings her Utopia aroused in her 
mind. Poetry never came easy to her, dearly as she 
loved it. 

1 The paragraphs and brackets are the writer's own. 



CHILDHOOD 7 

She begins gallantly many times : (We all know the experi- 
ence ) 

" See how pretily the sunbeams dance 

Upon the fair waves of Speed-the-lance 
See the Waters of Gold ! " 

and again, 

" See Lord Grandaflora brave 
Fighting his country and life to save. ..." 

and again, 

" See how gently Mordisca rules 
O'er Sackermena and her pooles ..." 

or is it " fooles " ? The writing is very bad. 

On the whole the most delightful stanza is the one that 
was probably the first, 

" Sweet Sackermena and her isles 
See how many yards and miles 
It takes to go round Sackermena ! " 

No, poetry never came easy to her. 

When she tackles the constitution of the state, however, 
her work is on a totally different level. She gives us the 
officers, " Military, Civil, and Judicial," the standing army, 
standing navy, Men of War and frigates, and vessels " in 
rest, ready to be raised." From this we go on to Prisons, 
Castles, Laws, Parliament, Guards, etc. The population 
varies greatly in different schemes. In one, by a stroke of 
genius, all innocent of that terrible Woman Question in 
which she was to play so prominent a part, she says : Men, 
7,000,000; Women, 5,000,000. Truly an ideal state! 

There are many codes of laws, drawn up to meet one 
contingency after another. The following are picked out 
almost at random : 

" The Despotic Emperor has authority that none may dispute 
and none may appear in his presence without his gracious permission 
save his sons and Lord Field Marshall, also the chief general the 
high Admiral the high Treasurer, high Chancellor, Secretary of 
state and the Chief Justice." 

" Succession to the Crown. It is at the option of the Reigning 
Despotic Emperor to name his successor but if he dies without 



8 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

making any choice it descends to the eldest son but if he has no 
son the crown is placed on the head of the eldest daughter unless 
12 strong reasons can be urged to the contrary and accepted by 
Parliament. If he has no offspring it does not descend to the next 
relation but it is in the power of the parliament to give it to who- 
ever it pleases." 

" Robery shall always be punished by the culprits restoring four- 
fold or if utterly unable to pay this as many days imprisonment 
as there are shillings in the forfeit." 

" Intentional murder and personal injury shall be punished by 
injuries precisely similar." 

" If .any man conceals the persons mentioned in the preceding 
laws he is punished half as much as the offender." 

" That every English or Scotchman that is travelling with a pass- 
port shall be supplied with provisions cost free. And every French- 
man shall have things for half and every Dutchman quarter price. 
Any one infringing this law is liable to be forced into the army 
with the possibility of advancement or to be imprisoned for two 
years." 

" No judge shall ever condemn a man to death without the know- 
ledge of Lord Trican. An infringement of this law shall be visited 
by confiscation of all his estates except (if he have it) 250 to 
his wife and 300 to each of his children; besides his being de- 
graded from office and receiving 30 stripes in the public square 
of St. Anhola." 

" All disobedience to officers shall be punished by flogging, ist 
offence 20 strokes, 2nd. 34, 3rd. 40, 4th. imprisonment 4 months, 
5th. 14 months, 6th. Death." 

" If any sentinel be found asleep in the camp he shall be shot 
with blank cartridges and imprised 15 months. The second offence 
he shall be shot really." 

" Spirits or strong drink not being allowed in either army or navy 
any person having any shall be shot with blank cartridges and the 
second offence he shall receive 20 strokes and i months imprisonment, 
3rd. 32 strokes and 4 months imprisonment. 4th. Death." 

" In time of war when the standing army is not sufficient to- 
resist the enemy's forces 350 soldiers and 4 captains and 10 lieu- 
tenants shall be sent to raise the ready militia to the amount required ; 
if this is not enough every man above 20 and under 80 compose 
the Possiblees which is raised in great danger, but 2,500,000 must 
be left (all able bodied men) to take care of the kingdom." 

In many respects this state was a primitive one. When 
certain announcements were to be made, "a large bell is rung 
which is heard to the distance of 23 miles," or "an enormous 



CHILDHOOD 9 

bonfire is made in the palace gardens of Mt. Gilbow [!] which 
is perhaps seen to a greater distance." 
This is fine : 

" The Despotic Emperor is the grand Law-giver General Judge 
Sage Physician and in short the Father of his vast dominions." 

In spite of the mass of prosaic detail as to dress, provisions, 
etc., there is sometimes a hint of the supernatural about the 
whole thing. The dotted lines between the islands in one 
of the maps indicate " invisible bridges ", and in a request to 
"VICTORIA and PRINCE ALBERT" that a governor may be sent 
from England to " controll the foreigners who wilfully destroy 
the peace and comfort of this happy and well-governed realm," 
we are told that " if this wish is complied with, the Most 
Gracious Despotic Emperor, PHRAMPTON OMAiLGRANDiFLORA, 1 
will stand the friend of your kingdoms on earth and admit 
20 of your subjects to his unearthly Kingdom." 

A great impetus to the whole conception may possibly 
have been given by a tour which the child was fortunate 
enough to make with her parents and sister to Warwickshire 
and thence to Scotland in June, 1850, a tour of which further 
particulars will be found in the next chapter. In the course 
of her very conscientiously kept diary, she says, " We read 
the Lady of the Lake aloud," and she herself is reading 
" Ivanhoe, one of the Waverley novels." 

There is no proof, however, that any part of her Utopia 
was sketched after this tour, and a great part of it was cer- 
tainly written before. 

On the whole, perhaps, the most remarkable thing in 
connection with " Sackermena and her Isles " is the staying 
power shown by the writer in developing her idea, and her 
determination to get everything down on paper. In this 
more than in anything else the child was father of the man. 

S. J-B . was a born chronicler. 

As regards Sackermena, the idea certainly afforded no lack 
of scope and variety. What with drawing maps, writing 

1 Note the similarity of the name to her signature on p. 5. Many 
a little girl has loved to imagine herself a fairy princess. It would be 
interesting to know whether any other ever dreamed of being a " Despotic 
Emperor." 



io SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

poetry, framing laws, adding up the totals of her army and 
reserves, devising for the soldiery " A dark red long coat 
with silver falcons, and thick leather buskins studden with 
iron," and many another guise equally picturesque, she 
certainly did not suffer from monotony in her self-chosen 
occupation. And the above examples by no means exhaust 
its possibilities. On a stray slip of paper we come upon a 
formal complaint from a " justice," who, " passing in dis- 
guise through Pe," was supplied with a loaf deficient in weight ; 
and a tiny booklet (laboriously stitched together by the 
writer's hot little hands) has the following title page : 

THE SACKERMENEE'S 
POCKET BOOK 



Containing many Little Accounts 
of their Customs 



PUBLISHED BY S. L. BLAKE & Co. 
Hastings 1848 

Jan. 1850 

The two dates seem to indicate that Sackermena flourished 
for perhaps two years ; but the Pocket Book itself was not 
a hardy plant. The big foolscap sheets were clearly more 
stimulating to the imagination. 

The thing is child's work throughout. From first to last 
it bears no trace of grown-up criticism ; nor is there then or 
afterwards any note by her parents, teachers or friends, 
referring in even the most distant way to the faerie region in 
which the little girl must have spent so much of her time. 

Another thing strikes one incidentally considering the 
atmosphere in which the child was brought up as rather 
curious. There is no mention of clergy at Sackermena, nor 
of any form of church. We are not even told that nothing 
of the kind existed. 

Note again that the Despotic Emperor was the grand Law- 
giver, General, Judge, Sage, Physician, and, in short, the 
Father, of his vast dominions. 



CHAPTER II 
SCHOOL LIFE 

" You often say how happy you were as a child," an intimate 
friend remarked once to Dr. Jex- Blake, " but you never talk 
of your school life. I expect you were a terrible pickle ? ". 

" Specs so," was the laconic response, and the subject 
dropped. 

There is no getting round the fact that she was a terrible 
pickle. If we bear in mind what the state of girls' education 
was in those days we shall see that it could scarcely have been 
otherwise. If she could have gone to a boys' school and 
enjoyed its boisterous give and take, the little " despotic 
emperor " would soon have found her level. One loves to 
think how happy she would have been in the modern Girls' 
High School : if she had but found the education of women 
in the condition in which she left it, the difference in her whole 
future would have been very great, but women of the present 
day would not owe her the debt they owe her now. " The 
breaker is gone up before them." 

As things were, she had, in a sense, got the upper hand of 
her parents before she went to school at all. She was simply 
overflowing with energy and vitality, and they found them- 
selves, while she was little more than a child, confronted with 
a personality which ran right athwart their preconceived 
notions and theories of life. They had not the right weapons 
with which to meet the outbursts of her volcanic temperament, 
and it must always be borne in mind that " when she was 
good, she was very very good," immeasurably more attractive 
than the average child. 



12 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

The one effort of her teachers, of course, was to repress 
her, to induce her to be " ladylike," and, most unfortunately 
of all, to make every childish act of disobedience, every out- 
burst of passion, the text for a homily on the necessity of 
" coming to Jesus." One cannot read the long series of 
letters referred to above without wondering how it came 
about that the germ of religion in the child's heart was not 
worn away altogether ; and indeed its survival only becomes 
comprehensible when one bears in mind the genuine goodness 
of many of those who watched over her, and also the " un- 
known quantity," that elusive unsearchable factor that is 
present in every human equation. 

The earliest references to her education are two letters from 
her first governess, Miss B., to Mrs. Jex-Blake, of which the 
first is dated November 24th, 1848 : 

" Sophy is a dear child, shewing daily advancement in her studies, 
and often delighting me by a rectitude of principle emanating, I 
trust ' from the Father of lights '. A little native wildness (and that 
gradually softening down) together with the want of promptitude in 
setting about her duties, are the chief obstacles that could be picked 
out from a much longer list of things most prized by an earnest 
teacher. I have often thought of your wish that she should learn 
the Latin grammar, and quite agree with your view of its probable 
advantage ; but I am afraid of breaking down in the long and short 
syllables. . . . For the next few months it appears to me nothing 
will be lost by our present system, in which I find parsing to be 
generally a subject of interest. 

I trust the time is not very distant when your little girl will success- 
fully strive to be both a help and comfort to her parents." 

The second letter is nearly two months later : 

" Your kind letter with its agreeable suggestion reached me too 
late for a reply by return of post. It would have given me a feeling 
deeper than pleasure to continue the instruction of your very pro- 
mising child, but I have already engaged with one daily pupil and 
have a half prospect of another, in addition to which God's high 
dispensation seems to allot to my keeping, as soon as He graciously 
gives me the means, the eldest of four children belonging to 
my Brother. . . . With our best love to Sophy, I am, dear Mrs. 
Blake, 

Yours in the Lord, 

MARY B." 



SCHOOL LIFE 13 

The first arrangement having fallen through, Sophy was 
sent with her sister to Belmont, a school kept by Mrs. and 
Miss Teed. The following letter seems to have been written 
on the day they set out : 

" 29th January [1849]. 
DEAR LITTLE So, . . 

I hope you had a comfortable journey ; I fear the cold wind 
must have increased your cold. Now, dearest child, you must be 
always going to Jesus for grace to overcome self-will and the desire 
to be conspicuous. Strive to be a gentle child, in reality esteeming 
others better than yourself. You cannot learn anything to any 
purpose till you are obedient and have some self-command. Try to 
be a comfort to dearest Carry, she has her trials, depend upon it, 
<lo you be obedient to her and thoughtful of her comfort, without 
making a fuss about it. Carry likes kindness quietly done. Do 
not give needless trouble to Miss Towers or anyone. Try to deserve 
Dearest Mrs. Teed's good opinion. Jesus will be sure to help you 
whenever you ask Him. I forward a note that arrived from Aunt 
Taylor. Papa sends best love. 

I am your affectionate Mother, 

MARIA EMILY JEX-BLAKE." 

Mrs. Jex-Blake's health never was robust, and at this time 
it was causing her husband and intimate friends some 
uneasiness. 

" Do you know, darling Sophy," she writes on March 27th, " it 
is sometimes quite a trial to me to write one letter to each of you, 
and I should hardly do it, did I not know how ' nice it is ' (as you 
say) to hear from home at school. I so much like you to send me 
the heads of Mr. Parker's and of Mr. Taylor's sermons. The one 
on 23 Jer. 29 must have been very beautiful. . . . Papa has just 
come in and says thank dear little So for her letter and tell her I 
am particularly pleased with the clear way in which she sent me 
the heads of the sermon. ... I send you a few of our violets." 

And again, 

" Be much in prayer, my sweet one, for grace to be obedient and 
gentle. Hope whispers great things for our next meeting if God 
grants us one. 

I am comforting myself with the hope that you are waging constant 
war against self-will and disobedience. You can hardly believe how 
happy you will be when through God's help upon your earnest 
endeavours, you can obey at once and give up your own way. I 
send my darling child a text which I wish her to learn and pray 



14 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

for grace to live up to. It is i Peter v. 5. I wish you to learn it 
perfectly and make it part of your daily prayers. Tell me when 
you write that you have done so. Bear it in mind all day long, 
and try hard, very hard, to live up to it. I often fancy you all at 
morning prayers and wish I could be there. 1 God gives you great 
privileges, dear child, that you may live to Him." 

All the letters are in this vein, and all were read by the 
recipient many times and carefully preserved. 

In June, 1849, sne went with her parents, brother and 
sister to spend a long holiday in the Lake District, and one 
is glad to think of her as being much in the open air, collecting 
plants and stones, " shooting a good deal with bow and 
arrows," riding on the coach, and being allowed to drive for 
a few minutes herself. 2 

Her holiday diary is as well written and as dull as that of 
the average adult, and one is almost startled when one 
comes upon such entries as " Played at horses and pretended 
I was driving the mail " ; and again, " A very wet day. I 
had a very nice game with Papa and Carry, and another 
with Carry in the afternoon and afterwards another alone 
with Papa very nice indeed and I enjoyed it very much." 

On the other hand there was no lack of church -going, and 
the texts are always carefully noted down : 

" July 2Qth Sunday. Went to Keswick church in the morning 
and the text was James 4. 8. Brother went to church at Thorn- 
thwaite. Papa, Brother and Carry walked off to the Vale of St. John's, 
but there was no sermon only prayers. Went to Keswick church 
in the afternoon and the clergyman took his text from Ps. 119, 96." 

" Aug. 5th. Mama was very ill and I stopped at home both in the 
morning and afternoon with her. Papa, Brother and Carry went 
to Brougham-hall to church but there was no service. They went 
again in the afternoon to Brougham-hall no sermon. I went in 
the evening to Penrith church and the text was Luke 16. 8." 



1 She would probably not have elected to be there on the morning when 
some imp induced Sophy to tip over a bench on to the row of girls kneeling 
in front of her. 

- She used to say that her intimate familiarity with the details of harness- 
ing and all stable matters was due to the fact that when they were spending 
a holiday in the country her father allowed them to have a pony and 
trap on condition that, with the exception of actual grooming, the children 
managed it entirely themselves. 



SCHOOL LIFE 15 

She never seems to have drawn a blank, poor little soul ! 
A previous entry is even more characteristic of the world 
she lived in : 

" July 23rd. . . . Had a walk with Papa and Carry in the after- 
noon, and afterwards bought tracts (for 6d.) with Carry." 

" 24th. A rather wet morning. Went out with Papa and gave 
away some tracts." 

Yet her Father was an excellent playfellow and at this 
time her most indulgent critic. In the spring of 1850 he 
writes " It is a real pleasure to me to hear from you, and 
I hear such pleasing accounts of you from others that I am 
very glad " ; but it must be admitted that this note of con- 
gratulation is rare. 

There is an amusing little joint note from her parents, 
probably of an earlier date : 

" DEAR SOPHY, 

I send you the is. and I hope the yellow paper. I do not 
know what you want of paste-board, therefore I fear I cannot send 
it. I send the gingerbreads, and hope to do so on the nth again. 
Your affectionate Mother." 

Then follows in pencil : 

" Dear child, I have got all the things for you and leave them 
with 2 pounds of gingerbread. I think you want more than one 
shilling for your purpose so I enclose 2S. for you. 

Your affect. Papa, 

T. J-B." 

But it must not be supposed that her parents were ever 
otherwise than of one mind concerning her. Like all well- 
constituted husbands, Mr. Jex-Blake was quite prepared on 
occasion to demolish the child who made his wife uncom- 
fortable. And it must be confessed that little Sophy had 
rather a knack of making people " uncomfortable." She 
was so keen about everything : she staked her equanimity 
so often on things which it might have been wiser to regard 
as trifles, that those about her learned to live in a state of 
some anxiety, never knowing when the eruption might 
come. 

The remedy for it all is painfully obvious as we read. More 



16 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

scope, more physical exercise, more fresh air ; but, as already 
pointed out, the girls' schools of those days provided none 
of these things ; and, when the child came to her dearly 
loved home, the Mother's excessive fragility made it necessary 
that her daughter should live the life of a grown up person. 1 
The most devoted mutual love could not devise a regime 
suited to both. The lovely ailing Mother cquld not stand 
noise and excitement. Sophy was often riotous, excitable, 
41 rough " yet always very loving with it all. On one occasion 
when walking demurely along the pavement in a queue of 
well-behaved girls, she caught sight of her father, and, with- 
out a moment's hesitation, deserted the ranks, and took a 
flying leap on to his back ! 

No wonder that a contemporary friend of the family de- 
scribes him ( as saying very often, " My dear Sophy ! My dear 
child ! " in tones of absolute bewilderment. 

In the summer of 1850 Sophy made the tour referred to 
in the preceding chapter, and a liberal education it must 
have been. In April Mrs. Jex-Blake had written, 

" I hardly allow myself to look forward to the treat of going to 
Scotland ; it seems almost too much pleasure, and we shall be 
sure to find people who love Jesus and love the Bible there and that 
will add so very greatly to our pleasure. . . . Papa thanks you 
for your letter, he is surprised and pleased to learn that you are in 
Reduction. . . . Use daily as a prayer the substance of i Peter v. 5." 

" 1 8th June. Left Belmont at 20 minutes to 10 with Miss 
Teed, and met Papa and Mama at the Euston, and went to 
Rugby to pick up Brother." So Sophy's own diary begins, 
and an excellent conscientious piece of work it is. They 
visited Leamington, Warwick, Kenilworth : thence to Edin- 
burgh, Stirling, Glasgow and the Lochs, Callander and the 
Trossachs, stopping at York on the way south. 

A pretty piece of doggerel shows the happy relations between 
Father and daughter at this period. It is scribbled in pencil 

1 " I must tell you my experience," writes Mrs. Jex-Blake to Dr. Lucy 
Sewall a quarter of a century later, " not my own practice, it was not the 
fashion of my day (and having lost my three eldest I was very anxious and 
fidgetty) : Where children are trusted and have a good deal of inde- 
pendence, and their tempers not fretted about little things, they grow up 
more open, confiding and trustworthy." 



SCHOOL LIFE 17 

on the back of a hotel-keeper's note. The Father begins in 
his scholarly handwriting : 

" My little child, You're very wild, 
Could you be still, And yet not ill, 
Then, little So, This I do know, 
You'd be a blessing, Worth possessing." 

Whereupon Sophy comes hobbling on : 

" My dear Father, I had rather 
You'd believe me, And relieve me, 
When I say, As I may, 
That I'll be good, As I should." 

Of course it is she who recommences the game : 

" My dear Papa, Aha, Aha, 
Send me a letter, Then you can better 
Tell when we go, Off to Tarbet Oh ! 
And all your wishes, With many kisses." 

And the scholarly handwriting closes the page : 

" I kiss you ! Why if I do 
I kiss a wild, And teasing child. 
But this short note, Papa has wrote 
To say at ten, We start again. 
Henceforth you should Be very good." 

In autumn the two sisters returned to Mrs. Teed's school, 
and things resumed their chequered course. I am told by 
a schoolfellow of Sophy's, who had an excellent influence 
over her at that time, that Mrs. Teed managed the little girl 
extremely well : and in any case she remained at Belmont 
for two years, when Mrs. Jex- Blake removed her evidently 
to the child's regret on the curious ground that she was 
being " extinguished." The truth is that the younger pupils 
were rationed according to age, and, as Sophy was physically 
as well as mentally in advance of her contemporaries, she 
was reduced to eating raw acorns to appease her hunger. 
But Mrs. Jex-Blake was not aware of that detail till long 
after. 

In the meantime, the former teacher, Miss B., had settled 
at Ramsgate with the pupils already referred to, and Sophy 
was sent back to her. A more devoted and conscientious 



i8 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

teacher one can scarcely imagine, but the arrangement was 
in some ways a very unfortunate one. At home and probably 
also to some extent at Mrs. Teed's the religious atmosphere 
was tempered by a sense of humour as regards the ordinary 
affairs of life ; but of this quality worthy Miss B. seems to 
have possessed no trace. Henceforth the child lived in a 
religious forcing house. One hopes that at times she escaped 
to Sweet Sackermena and her Isles, but the moral atmosphere 
at Ramsgate was not conducive to such pagan wanderings. 
Her brain was pronounced excitable, and she was to have 
but little head employment, but she was taken to church 
several times a week, and encouraged or instructed to 
write out the sermons to send home to her parents. Here 
is an example of her work : (Miss B.'s trifling corrections 
are omitted.) 

" Mr. Dunbrain. John iii. 3.* April 2. 1851. 
We live in days of deep interest, the common topics of men 
are thrown aside and everyone seems to be utterly absorbed in 
religious controversies. The torpor which had overspread the 
church has entirely dissolved, and now all around we hear nothing 
but the perpetual strife jar and clamour of religious disputes. It 
is a storm and a strong one too, but many think it precedes the 
blessed peace and quiet of the Millennium. Like every storm it 
did not come all at once, but it has been long in gathering ; it began 
with what men call trifles and rose gradually, gathering strength 
as it rose, etc., etc. 

Those marked * are Wednesday evening lectures." 

We are left to guess whether she wrote out the lecture 
after supper the night it was delivered, or lay awake " re- 
membering it " till next morning. 

Memory altogether was a faculty assiduously cultivated. 
It was the custom for the family to gather round the fire on 
Sunday evenings, and for one after the other to repeat a 
sacred poem. When they had been separated for a time, 
special interest attached to the items each had added in the 
interval to his, or her, repertory. No doubt the custom 
began with the learning of hymns, but they seem for the 
most part to have been good hymns, and round this nucleus 
there gathered an extraordinarily varied collection, fine 
passages from Isaiah and the Psalms, poems by Trench, 



SCHOOL LIFE 19 

Dean Alford, Longfellow, Wordsworth and many more. It 
was said of the younger daughter in her later life that, if she 
had been shipwrecked on a desert island with nothing but 
pens and paper in addition to the actual means of livelihood, 
she could gradually have provided a priceless library from 
memory alone. 

A few of her letters at this time have been preserved. 

[1851]. 

" DEAR DADDY, 

A most extraordinary thing happened this morning ; the 
crew of a Portuguese ship put up in the masthead figures representing 
Pontius Pilate and Judas and exactly as 10 struck on the pier clock 
they thumped them down into the sea ! Now was not this Popish 
trash ? A respectable English jolly tar told Miss B. all about it 
and added how happy we were to be taught better ; now I think 
that's a right good English spirit. The first grand steamer has 
just come in. I have a very bad cold and have not been out. Miss 
B. brought me some licorice for my cough and I am to have treacle 
posset tonight so I could not possibly be taken more care of and 
no doubt it will be quite well before 3oth. You musn't think Miss 
B. had anything to do with my talking about tractarianism, indeed 
afterwards she forbade it, it was all my fault. I'm writing a history 
of our family entitled ' History of the illustrious family of Blakes 
from 70 B.C. to 1080 A.D.' Dear Daddy how I do love you, if I could 
' climb those knees and kiss that face ' I'd be happy enough, indeed 
I'm very happy here but home sweet home is better than anything 
else. S. B. 

Do send me a large seal of your crest." 

Her Mother, however, is always her main confidant. 

" I'm in a scrape just now Mama," she writes on April 5th, 1851, 
" I long to be at Home, home sweet home there's no place like home, 
no person like Mummy and no kiss like Mummy's cuddle and no 
knees like Papa's and no player at Prisoner and Judge Selling or 
any other game in the world like Papa, no one that can put me in a 
good humour like Daddy and Mummy ! Oh ! nothing like what 
everything is at home anywhere else, in all Europe Asia Africa and 
America no place is like home, sweet sweet home. . . . Love to 
dear Papa and yourself 3000000 kisses. I always kiss the envelope. 
Please write very soon. I am your affectionate and I hope dutiful 
Sophy." 

We know how fervently the Mother " hoped " the same ! 



20 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

The child seems to have spent the first weeks of May in 
her beloved home, and the following letter from Miss B. 
gives us a graphic sketch of her return to school : 

" MY DEAR MRS. BLAKE, 

Dearest Sophy has laid her letter before me, and such a 
burden of grief I can scarcely bear to send but you will look at 
my view of the picture likewise. The tears shed in writing that 
were very nearly all we have had ; for soon after parting from her 
Papa the heavy clouds passed away, and, when established in the 
fly I was glad to hear, ' Well, I am not quite so sorry as I expected 
to be,' and then ' Mummy says the air of Ramsgate will almost 
make amends for the parting.' We got home and found dinner 
ready, but dear Sophy could only take a little rhubarb. ... At 
tea she seemed surprised at being able to express herself as ' hungry,' 
though the appetite was soon satisfied, and she is now sitting reading 
in the garden, which she says is ' delicious '. Dear Mrs. Blake do 
not think I will tax her head with anything beyond beneficial em- 
ployment. It will be my study to get rid of that thin look which I 
could scarcely have attributed to so short a change (!) . I ought to tell 
you that Sophy meant to say that she felt better when she got into 
Ramsgate than for some time, but grief swallowed up all other 
news." 

A week or two later her Father asks her in a rash moment 
if she can tell him " Why it is wrong to oppose Papal Aggres- 
sion ? " adding, " If you can't, I will tell you." The question 
was a mere conundrum, but she takes it very seriously : 

" DEAR FATHER, 

I am very very sorry to hear that dearest Mother is so unwell 
(or I should say ill). I send her a marker as 7 have not many flowers 
that will press well. 1 Please tell her that she must not give it away 
to anyone. I am quite enchanted at Boy's getting two poetry prizes ; 
it is charming. 

Well, about the question, ' Why it is wrong to oppose the Papal 
Aggression ? ' I really don't see how it can be wrong and must 
think it quite right. I can't see how it can be wrong for any zealous 
servant of God to oppose with all his might that which dishonours 
God and his word, which (when the Bible says ' none can come 
unto the Father but by Me ') says that we must come by the Virgin 
and the saints etc. People might say ' We must not oppose it for 
it is God's will ' they might also say that ' temptation was put before 
the Jews and that was God's will ' but they were told to put the 

1 She had her own little garden at Ramsgate. 



SCHOOL LIFE 21 

accursed thing far from them and destroy it utterly and I think 
the Papal Aggression is put in our way to try us and see if we will 
oppose it unto death. But of course you know more about it than 
I, so please tell me why it is wrong to oppose it." 

One can imagine that her Father was almost ashamed to 
confess that the question was only a joke. 

" Now for a word about the ' bowing,' he says in another letter. 
' It is of no importance in itself, and therefore I never tell my 
children or servants either to bow or not to bow ; but particular 
circumstances may render it important, and if good and kind Miss 
B. thinks that at Christ Church, you may honour God rather by 
doing as she and others who are with her do, than by being singular 
on this point, I not only wish you to obey her, but to do it with a 
willing and ready mind, cheerfully, as a plain matter of duty. Which 
it is. It is for her to judge, and for you to do, gladly, what she 
tells you." 

Miss B. had the greatest admiration for her pupil's gifts, 
and in particular she considered her a budding poetess. These 
are some of the effusions of the period : 

" Oh Mother ! thou that broughtest me forth 
My sins gainst thee none, none can tell 
For these alone I ought in sooth 
To be e'en now in lowest hell. 
But oh ! my God still spares me on 
To be a comfort to thy years 
God grant I may e'er the sun goes down 
Seal thee this promise with my tears. 
Ne'er ne'er again what [e'er] betide, 
(In Jesu's strength alone I trust) 
I'll vex my mother, who did guide 
My years of infancy now past." 

Another time after expatiating on her Mother's virtues 
and unmerited affection, she goes on to inform her that there 
is One 

" Whose love surpasseth thine as far 
As Sol excels the falling star. 
My Mother ONE request I make 
That thou wouldst pray for Jesu's sake 
That he would break this heart of stone 
And mould it like my Saviour's own." 



22 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Was it all mere humbug and " patter " ? The question 
can best be answered by quoting the following letter to her 
Father. It is written impulsively in pencil on scraps of 
paper, the questions and answers being on different slips. 
The wording of the questions has sometimes been altered and 
corrected, so presumably she drafted them herself. The 
little sheaf has been thrust " anyhow " into an envelope 
(addressed to Mrs. T. Jex-Blake) which bears postmark 
" Ramsgate, Ap. 21. 1851," and Mrs. Jex-Blake has quaintly 
endorsed it " very nice." 

" MY DEAREST FATHER, 

I fear you are very uneasy about me for I have indeed 
manifested no visible proof of a new and clean heart, but I think 
much of my soul too much for me to speak even to you of it. But 
I cannot talk so whenever anyone tries to talk to me of it I always 
turn it into jest but I must write (I cannot speak) to you about it 
so I have written some questions down and endeavoured to answer 
them as before God. So do believe each word. S. B. 

1. If you died this instant what would become of you ? And 
could you face death unflinchingly ? 

I know not what would become of me but I fear I should go 
to eternal torments. And do not think I could face death 
unflinchingly for this reason. 

2. What would be your first emotion when you found yourself 
in the presence of the Judge of quick and dead ? 

Fear I think but yet I think that I should claim Jesus' 
promises to lost sinners. 

3. If Christ came this night and asked you ' Lovest thou me ' 
what would be your answer ? 

Yes Lord although I am very wicked and cold and dull yet 
I could say without hesitation I do love thee very much I often 
feel my heart warm towards thee and something tells me that 
one day I shall love thee far better than I do now. 

4. Could you before God say truly ' I strive to live as I hope to 
die'? 

No I fear I could not although sometimes I do try to do 
things to please Jesus. 

5. Do you really in your heart know your religion to be a mere 
form or do you really feel its life-giving influence on your heart ? 

I know I often say far more than I really believe, I even 
have been tempted so far as to doubt in my heart the existence 



SCHOOL LIFE 23 

of a Diety but yet I have had a few bright moments in which 
I could sincerely say Yes I know it I know that Christ is mine 
and I am his but a deep gloom is generally over my spirit. 

6. Do you in your heart believe yourself to be a new creature ? 

I know not but I fear not although at times I have been 
fully convinced that I am God's child. 

7. Do you earnestly desire to be such ? 

Most earnestly whenever anything touches that chord in my 
heart and sometimes I could weep bitterly but generally I feel 
awfully indifferent as to my soul. 

8. Do you think you have ever known what true prayer is ? 

Most certainly and have sometimes obtained very gracious 
answers. 

9. Where will you be 200 years hence ? 

In heaven I humbly hope and trust for I think the Lord has 
begun a good work in me." 

Gallant honest heart ! 

Is there a single word in the whole confession that the 
most devoted parent would have wished different ? 



CHAPTER III 
SCHOOL LIFE Continued 

" I THINK the Lord has begun a good work in me." Is there 
in the words a very human and pardonable suggestion of 
St. Augustine's " Timebam enim ne me cito exaudires" ? Jn 
any case, though doubtless the good work went on, it cannot 
be denied that the tares flourished abundantly with the wheat. 

It happened most unfortunately at this time that the 
child's physical health fell into a very unsatisfactory state : 
we hear of great digestive trouble and functional weakness 
of the joints. Modern hygiene would probably have made 
short work of both complaints. As things were, the weakness 
was " tinkered at," and the child was encouraged to live 
the life of an invalid. We are startled to learn incidentally 
that she is going out in a bath chair ! 

Good Miss B. took her up to town to see a consultant, and 
sent the parents long detailed reports on the child's health. 
We are not surprised to come upon the following under 
date July, 1851 : 

" You must not suppose, dear Mrs. Blake, that I overlook the 
self that you have rightly so much at heart. I see it too well, and 
it is commented on to Sophy so frequently that I sometimes check 
myself, . . . but the punishment that I might inflict on another I 
hold back in Sophy's case, not only from my own knowledge of her 
character, but because Mr. S. cautioned me if possible never to 
disturb the even tenor of her brain. . . . Her case is peculiar and 
such must be the ends to meet it : they will requite patience and may 
be long is showing fruit, but we will not despair." 

The next vacation seems to have been disastrous. The 
child had grown more indolent and self-centred, and no 



SCHOOL LIFE 25 

doubt the parents were unable to deny her the sweetmeats 
which she loved and which the supposed weakness of her 
joints made it impossible for her to " work off " as healthy 
children should. Moreover, few houses are large enough to 
contain two chronic invalids. 

" I received your letter," writes Mrs. Jex-Blake when the child 
is gone, " and very glad we were to hear of your safe arrival, but, 
my own child, I could have cried over your words. They were nice 
and affectionate, but the very opposite of your acts. . . . Either my 
child means what she writes or she does not. Your conduct com- 
pletely contradicts your assertions. More sad and foolish behaviour 
than yours it is difficult to imagine. You behaved so ill that I doubt 
if I could have borne it another day without being laid on a bed of 
sickness, and I might never have recovered. Your ever being with 
us again for three weeks at a time is quite out of the question till you 
have the good sense to understand (as other children of your age do) 
that to be happy and comfortable and to enable me in my weak state 
to have you at all, you must be good. When you seem really to feel 
how ill you have behaved, we will some time hence have you home 
for a week, and if I find you keep your word (which you do not now) 
we will have you home very often ; and Papa says that he shall 
then think that he can never do enough to make you very very happy ; 
but you now destroy your happiness and my health, and the medical 
men will not allow us to be together. Think of your great folly and 
sin, my dear child. Pray to God for grace, and He will give it to 
you for His dear Son's sake. . . . 

When you have read this letter, I wish you to tear it up." 

As ill luck would have it, this most unusually severe indict- 
ment found the poor little culprit seriously ill in bed. Her 
penitent reply is not forthcoming, but five days later, her 
Mother writes again : 

" MY OWN DARLING CHILD, 

I trust this will find you much better ; if you want me to be 
happy you must make all possible haste to get well, and write to tell 
me you are well. ... I quite believe, my darb'ng, that you are 
sorry, and will, in God's strength, take pains that the same shall 
never happen again. I do particularly wish you to tear up my 
last letter at once." 

She didn't tear it up : she never could tear up " Mummy's 
letters." She tied the two together with a piece of red 
wool, and slipped in with them a Sunday School " ticket " 



26 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

bearing the words, " Children, obey your parents in the Lord ; 
for this is right." 

By the same post as the second of these letters her Father 
writes : 

" MY DARLING CHILD, 

We have been so grieved to hear of your illness, and do hope 
that before you receive this, you will be much better. It will please 
you to know that dear Mummy is much better for the quiet and 
Norfolk air. Everybody is so kind and trying to get her quite 
strong, and they all enquire so kindly after little Sophy, whom they 
call ' little Sophy ' still, everybody saying what a very sweet and 
darling child you were six years ago ; and I do trust that, when 
you see them next, they will find you a more darling child, and more 
loveable than ever. God grant it be so, dearest, for I want you to 
be very happy." 

The next letter from Miss B. that has been preserved is 
dated September, 1851, and is addressed to Mr. Jex- Blake. 
" I ought not to express sorrow at the sudden removal of 
your child, hoping and believing that it is ' ordered by the 
Lord.' She bears away with her my affectionate love and 
prayerful interest." 

No record has been kept of the precise steps that led to the 
" sudden removal." 

For the next two years the child went to a boarding-school 
in Brighton, where her parents had now gone to reside, and 
there are, therefore, practically no letters of the period. Two 
of her schoolfellows, however, have been good enough to 
contribute their impressions of her. For better and for 
worse, they call up a very vivid picture. Miss Lucy Portal 
writes : 

" Being the junior of Sophy, as we always called her, she and T 
were not much in touch, though I never forgot her, for she had a 
strong personality, and was so clever in fact, far above our school- 
mistress in natural intelligence, and she made a lasting impression 
on those with whom she associated. Whenever I heard her name 
in after life the vision of a young capable girl who asked questions 
that bewildered her governess rose before me. 

One day when we were walking on the ' Downs ' with [an assistant 
governess] in the rear, Sophy saw a large stone by the wayside and 
seated herself on.it. ' What do you mean by this ? ' said the gover- 
ness. ' I am tired and must rest,' replied Sophy. ' Get up at 



SCHOOL LIFE 27 

once,' said Miss . . . ; ' Do you suppose we are all going to wait 
your pleasure in this way ? ' ' Impossible to do what is beyond 
one's capacity,' was the rejoinder, and threats had no effect. At 
last Miss lost her temper and said ' Sophy, distinctly under- 
stand that if you do not get up, I shall leave you here, and send a 
policeman to fetch you.' ' Ah/ said Sophy, ' that is a kind thought. 
I am sure he would prove of great assistance to me. But could 
you manage to procure two policemen, for I don't believe one would 
be able to carry me, and two might do so.' I need not say that 
the battle of words was soon over after that." 

Knowing as one does how anomalous was the position of 
an assistant teacher in those days, one can but admit that 
the child must often have inflicted far greater suffering and 
anxiety than she had the least idea of. 

On the other hand, Mrs. Cover, widow of the late Canon 
Cover of Worcester, writes : 

" Sophie set us a good example at school, and I shall always think 
of her as one of the most truthful girls I have ever known, the only 
girl I ever knew who would not allow her drawings to be touched 
up by her master. I had a very great respect for her high character." 

But nothing can show more clearly the futility of the 
educational methods of that day than the following letter 
from the headmistress herself : 

" June, 1852. 

DEAREST SOPHY, 

I cannot tell you with what a feeling of anguish I heard the 
door close after you on Saturday when you departed, and I had 
not kissed or blessed you. ... I saw you afterwards in the street, 
tho' I was unseen by you, and I could not stop you, my dear child, 
lest the past should be renewed. On my return I saw your present 
of fruit, it was not as gratifying to me as the scrap of paper, which 
contained my Sophy's acknowledgement of her fault. 1 Yet I thank 
you for the kind thought, as I hope you know me too well to suppose 
that any little gift can bribe me to forgive ; without that scrap, 
my Sophy, I should have turned away from receiving your fruit. 
The same afternoon at a friend's house I read a portion of your 
favourite Scott, and could not but think of you while I read the 
account of the ' evil and good ' trying for Mastery in Harold the 



1 Her brother had called at the school, immaculately dressed, and had 
behaved to the schoolmistress so charmingly that poor Sophy felt herself 
quite left out in th'e cold, and had doubtless responded with positive rude- 
ness. What sort of visit was this from a beloved brother ? 



28 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Dauntless* heart, remember his first act of forbearance was noted as 
a step towards heaven. Beloved child 1 do I beseech you remember 
the duty of a child, be gentle and tender to your dear Parents, then 
the Lord will love you, and some day the Lion will give place to the 
Lamb in your bosom. Dear Mary Bayly's has turned to whooping- 
cough. I hope yours is better. Until I find where to send her, I 
cannot leave home. God's will be done." 

For a year and a half Sophy remained under this lady's 
care, and then one or two equally unsuccessful experiments 
were made. Meanwhile Mrs. Jex-Blake remained so ailing 
that it was not possible for her to have the child at home 
for the long vacation, and a " dear kind " lady invites the 
refractory young person to visit her for part of the time. 
Mr. Jex-Blake writes to inform Sophy of the fact, and adds, 
" Now have we not in this great cause of thankfulness to our 
kind God and Father who never forgets us ? " This was 
perhaps asking a little too much of the homesick child. 

The truth is that the parents at this time were not growing 
younger (as many parents do), and certainly they were 
growing more staid and set in their ways. It was becoming 
increasingly difficult to them to adapt themselves to this 
riotous child. " Avoid excitement which is your great 
enemy," writes her Father, unaware perhaps that his own 
weakness was a tendency to be rather too fussy and precise. 
With hearts full of love they were demanding of her a standard 
of excellence which for her was wholly artificial, and in the 
half-hearted, or at least intermittent, effort to attain it, she 
fell in the breach. And parents and child were not the only 
factors in the difficult problem of home life. So long as 
Sophy could by any stretch of charity be reckoned a child, 
it was comparatively easy for her brother and sister to put 
up with her volcanic ways. But from a schoolgirl one expects 
some conformity to recognized standards, and Sophy's elder 
sister had been such a pattern in this respect that the con- 
trast was necessarily acute. 

" I really don't think you would enjoy [a visit from] Carry 
much at school even if we could spare her," Mrs. Jex-Blake 
writes in reply to an eager request for this privilege. " You 
would be tempted to be odd and excitable, and then Carry 



SCHOOL LIFE 29 

would be vexed and all would be uncomfortable " and no one 
who knew the elder sister can doubt that such demonstrations 
of affection would probably have " vexed " her more than 
most. On the other hand " Brother " was now a young 
man, and if his main desire for the child was that she should 
grow up like the sisters of other men, .he only shared the 
attitude common at that time to the overwhelming majority 
of his sex. One can see that his younger sister must have 
tried him a good deal. The idea that she was plain and 
even ugly had been firmly impressed upon her : the ex- 
hibition of vanity in matters of dress had been discouraged 
on every ground : and it was natural to her boyish tempera- 
ment to be careless of such things. When, in addition to 
these shortcomings, she added a propensity for making people 
" uncomfortable," one can quite understand that her brother 
did not feel specially proud of her, and the strength of her 
character probably made it difficult for him to influence her 
through the passionate affection and admiration she had 
cherished for him all through her childhood. In any case 
the relation between them became somewhat strained, and 
it is not surprising if she sometimes attributed the strictures 
of her parents to his influence and representations. 

It is delightful to record that, in spite of countless differences 
of opinion and much plain speaking on both sides, a fine 
loyal camaraderie existed between the sisters throughout life. 

I don't know whether it ever occurred to the child to compare 
her brother's education with her own. If she had done so, 
the reflection might well have made her bitter. In athletics 
as in the schools he was bearing off laurels at every turn, 
while she was being curbed and thwarted to meet the require- 
ments of pious and half-educated schoolmistresses. From 
the best of motives her parents refused for her the outlet for 
the " excitability " they constantly deprecated ; in other 
words they simply sat on the safety valve. In the summer 
of 1854 she begged probably not for the first time to be 
allowed to have riding lessons. The father replied . 

" I like to do anything in reason to please my own child, but you 
are so very excitable and have at present so lamentably little self- 
command that I should fear riding for you very much. It would 



30 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

do you no good and might be injurious to you in many ways. When 
will you prove to me that my hopes and expectations of you are 
not in vain ? . . . You don't know how the hearing you censured 
goes to my heart, and the not being able to place the most un- 
bounded confidence in you is very trying to me and the dear Mother, 
doubly so to her in her weak state." 

Of course it is easy now to see that he was wrong as regards 
the riding. Apart altogether from the physical exercise 
involved, the discipline of it would have been excellent. 
Big emergencies always braced her. She never lost her 
temper with a horse, nor her presence of mind in an 
accident. 

Meanwhile the series of loving reproachful letters goes 
steadily on. 

" Do you think, darling," her Father writes, " that by divine 
grace you are less self-willed day by day ? How earnestly do I 
desire to see you a loving happy child. Everybody seems to depre- 
cate your presence *as that which will spread discomfort all around. 
. . . God bless you and help you and give you His Holy Spirit to 
guide you continually." 

" Everybody " was an overstatement. At no time was the 
child without her own little circle of admiring friends. A 
schoolfellow with whom she remained on terms of intimate 
friendship throughout life says, " At our house she was 
always good and happy, and a very welcome guest. My 
father thought very highly of her." 

A fortnight later Mrs. Jex- Blake writes : 

" I rejoice at the nice accounts I have of you from school, and I 
hope (against experience) that you will when we see you again, be 
a pleasant child, the comfort you might so easily be to me." 

" Day and night," her Father writes, " you are on my 
heart. You know how I love you. Why will you thus be 
your own enemy ? " 

The faith and perseverance of the parents is astounding : 
not less so the fact that at bottom the affection and filial 
piety of the child never flagged. 

One has to remind oneself constantly what the daughter 
never forgot, though small trace of it appears in the letters of 
this period that Mrs. Jex-Blake had a keen sense of humour. 



SCHOOL LIFE 31 

When she and Sophy were together, they had many a good 
joke in common. It was when the mesmerism of the child's 
presence was removed that the sense of responsibility asserted 
itself in full force. It is impossible to read the long series 
of letters without being profoundly convinced, I. That the 
parents were devotedly attached to their youngest child 
(" Sophy was the favourite," was the elder sister's deliberate 
comment some sixty years later). 2. That their affection 
was returned with an intensity of which few children are 
capable. 3. That the warning that she was injuring her 
Mother's health and must therefore be kept away from her 
dearly-loved home did not provide a motive strong enough 
to make the child run in harness like other people. The 
inference is that no motive would have been strong enough. 

Did she ever really make an honest effort ? One comes 
upon many impassioned scraps of prayer for grace to resist 
temptation. " Oh, that when a word irritates me I may 
remember how often I have said more unkind things and been 
forgiven." " Oh, Lord, punish me, reduce me to submission 
in any way Thou seest fit, but oh, let me not alone, abandon 
me not despite my wickedness." And, although these 
prayers are apt to run into conventional exaggerated lan- 
guage, it is impossible to doubt their sincerity. Her tiny 
booklets and papers were always kept with the strictest 
secrecy, and it is all but certain that no eye but her own 
ever saw them before her death. 

Here is an isolated scrap of diary, recording probably a 
time of special effort. 

" Feb. 26th, 1854. Oh> keep Thou my foot when I go up into 
Thy house of prayer. O how difficult it is to fix the mind for even 
that short time ! Miss X. will treat me unlike any other human 
being, but that is no reason for transgressing the commandment of 
my God. She says she does not like to hear me name the name of 
Christ for I do not depart from iniquity, she thinks I had better not 
hold conversations on sacred subjects. 

A complaint having been made of rudeness from one of the girls, 
Miss X. said it was just like one of Sophy's tricks, heaven knows 
with what ground. All these things have aggravated me, and I 
fear I have sadly given way to temper and pride, not remembering 
Him who bare the contradiction of sinners against Himself though 



32 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

He never offended in word or deed. If sometimes unjustly spoken 
to, how often have I escaped my desert and how few are the 
faults the strictest find compared with an all-seeing God. Oh, for 
the charity that beareth all things. . . . 

ijth Monday. I must expect trials this day, humiliating to my 
pride and trying to my temper. . . . 

Nothing special, though I gave way sadly at different times and 
again sinned in sending a letter to Mama [? Maria]. 

28th. Again, more and more against light, got sweets. Miss X. 
in her prayer speaks at poor Agnes who is just come. She prays 
that all may be kind to her, remembering the Fatherless and Widow 
are His special care, etc. How could she harrow up poor Agnes' 
feelings so ! The poor child was weeping under the infliction. . . . 
And in the prayer she announced her intention of expelling anyone 
who would make the others unhappy. O I could have knocked her 
down, and after prayers she really spoke kindly to me about be- 
ginning March afresh and any other time I could almost have promised 
to try. As it was I could not kiss her even. Oh how much I think 
of that which might and probably did proceed from a pure motive, 
and do not consider my unkindness often which I know does not 
do so. 

March i. Whole holiday. Gave way to passion to A. and B. 
tho' perhaps they were provoking I should better have striven to 
retain my temper. Alas from my feelings since it seems as if it were 
the letting in of water. O preserve me from being so awfully 
passionate as I was. Overbearing and ordering in the afternoon. Oh 
for the Charity which ' is kind ' wliich ' is not puffed up ' ' seeketh 
not her own ' and above all which ' is not easily provoked '." 

She had no lack of self-control in other ways : why should 
she have failed so conspicuously in this ? When all due 
weight is given to the reasons already assigned one is still 
forced to the conclusion that there was something elemental 
in her nature over which she not only had little control, but 
of which she was to a great extent unconscious. As a mere 
child she expresses her thankfulness in a letter to her Mother 
that she is less " irritable," and at rare intervals all through 
life she would speak to intimate friends of the intolerable 
way in which the blood rushed to her head at times, making 
it all but impossible for her to weigh her words. But from 
first to last she was far less conscious of the moral aspect of 
the defect than one would have expected anyone of her sane 
judgment and essential humility to be. The severe self- 



SCHOOL LIFE 33 

analysis of the above extracts are on the whole exceptional. 
From childhood on, the thought that she had failed those 
she loved or had caused them anxiety and suffering, in a way 
that she understood, was a source of almost intolerable pain 
and compunction ; but she seems to have rarely and in- 
adequately realized the extent of the suffering she inflicted 
by her wilfuj ways and passionate temper. 

" And yet there was always something loveable with it 
all," a childhood's friend reiterates. " She came bounding 
into a room, bringing with her an atmosphere of gaiety and 
glee that is indescribable." 

Nor are we as regards the judgments of contemporaries 
confined to the possibly idealized picture of later years. 
Fortunately for the accuracy of the picture, Sophy seems 
about this time to have originated in the school a practice 
of character-writing, in which the critics were encouraged 
to be absolutely frank. This is what she brought upon 
herself : 

" Sophy is very affectionate and has more good in her than people 
think, she is truthful and can be trusted. She has an immense 
amount of self-conceit, self-sufficiency and pride. She will not be 
led by anything but affection, or a desire to make much of herself, 
and make herself well thought of. She has great talents and is 
very clever. She wishes to be thought an out-of-the-way character 
and is so. She lacks gentleness of feeling and manner." ( 

" Sophy is certainly excessively clever but unfortunately knows it, 
and makes a point of showing it off upon every possible occasion. 
She is truthfulness itself and can really be trusted. Very passionate 
but very penitent afterwards. Affectionate." 

" Clever, passionate, affectionate. Many bad habits but tries 
(lately at least) to get the better of them. Might be made a great 
deal of. Rather too fond of her own opinion. I think true." 

It is rather staggering to find how much wiser the young 
folks were in those days than were their elders ! 

Again Sophy propounds the question whether A. or E. is 
" the greater pet." The discussion goes on in writing, and 
finally the originator ends it by saying : 

" At any rate A. is the only friend I have got, and I don't want 
to lose her." 



34 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

To which D. responds : 

" You are wise, but she is not the only friend you might have.' ; 

And Sophy all too proud : 

" There are only one or two others I could have as a friend." 

And finally M. : 

" As to your friends, I quite agree with D. I think you might have 
had many. I know you might have had me long ere this, had 
you tried." 

Of another schoolfellow under discussion Sophy explains 
that she finds the young lady personally " aggravating," 
and adds : 

" But I think she is very ingenuous, and would own to a thing, 
even to a little one, which is a great thing considering her pride. 
That is what I do admire so ardently. 

SOPHY." 



CHAPTER IV 
SCHOOL LIFE Concluded 

IT will surprise no one who has read the extracts from Sophy's 
diary on page 32 to learn that, at the end of the summer 
term, Miss X. announced her inability to keep her any longer 
in the school. The culprit evidently declined to manifest 
any proper sense of sin or even of humiliation ; and the distress 
of her parents may be imagined. They recognized no other 
standard by which to judge her than the standard by which 
poor Sophy had so egregiously failed. 

In any case their kindness never faltered : they could not 
face having the child at home, and for some months they did 
not even see her ; but some " kind ladies " were found to take 
charge, of her until she could be put temporarily in the care 
of her old schoolmistress, Mrs. Teed. 

Very soon -a reassuring report came to relieve the anxious 
parents. On July loth, 1854, Mrs. Jex-Blake writes : 

" I delight to think that my dear child is availing herself of this 
great opportunity of redeeming her character. The past is so sad, 
so disappointing, and the thinking of it is so sure to make me ill, 
that I endeavour with my utmost power to forget it. I will not 
dwell upon it, but look forward to a bright future when my own 
dear child . . . will see that determination and self-willedness can 
only cause misery and discomfort to herself, and wellnigh shorten, 
certainly embitter my old age. 

I do feel greatly comforted by Mrs. Teed's giving a favourable 
account of you. She would like you to be less idle. Why do not 
you write out some papers about your natural philosophy subjects 
and zoology ? " , 

" Well, darling," her Father writes (July ijth), " I was very glad 
to get your letter, though I should like you to write more wisely. 



36 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

I don't at all mind your writing about ' unkind lectures ' for I know 
I never am and cannot be unkind to my own child ; but I do earnestly 
wish that you saw (as others do) how exceedingly foolish your 
conduct has been, and that by nothing but a complete change can 
you ever be comfortable." 

Meanwhile arrangements were being made for the child to 
go to another school, and one is thankful to record that it was 
at least a great improvement on its predecessors. On July 
2ist, 1854, Mr. Jex-Blake writes : 

" We have had a letter from Mrs. H. this morning, and it is now 
settled that G.W. you go to her the beginning of next month and 
Mrs. T. will take you and kindly give you the benefit of her intro- 
duction. You will go under the most advantageous circumstances 
possible, and it will be solely and entirely your own fault, my darling 
child, if everybody about you does not love you." 

A month later he writes again : 

" MY SWEET CHILD, 

I have just read your letter to the dear Mother. . . . Your 
letter gives me great pleasure, it is so sensible, and the tone through- 
out so like that of a dear dear child, who will never knowingly 
again give a minute's pain to the very best of Mothers, that I felt 
I could not be happy without writing to my darling at once to tell 
her how I look forward to her being a real comfort to dearest Mummy, 
and a constant ' sunbeam ' to me. ... I believe the happy feeling 
of confidence she has about you now is doing more for her than all 
the doctors in the world." 

A fortnight later he paid the child a visit, to which she 
refers in the following letter : 

" nth Sept. 1854. 

DARLING FATHER, 

You know what immense pleasure I had on Friday. I often 
think of it even now it is past, I feel so glad to have seen you ; but 
Daddy I am so sorry about the boat. I cannot forget it and I am 
very sorry, will you forgive me ? 

Do come down tomorrow just to say goodbye. You know you 
can come down by the omnibus you took on Friday and just sit for 
an hour or so and then go back. You can be back by luncheon time 
or nearly and it would be such a pleasure. I cannot get an answer 
to this by letter but hope to' secure one by ocular demonstration. 
I saw Miss B. and gave your message, but I fear unless you do as 
I hope you will that its fulfilment will be rather distant. We could 
just go in the Crescent Gardens or even sit still together in the 



SCHOOL LIFE 37 

drawing-room for one hour (just one) and it would be so enjoyable. 
I have so many things yet to say. You know we had so much 
walking and eating and shopping to get through on Friday that I 
was not able to tell you half the things I had to say. 

If you have arranged for me to come home in 3 weeks time I will 
try to reconcile myself to not seeing you if it is really impossible or 
very inconvenient in joyful hope, but in that case I shall hope for 
a nice long letter (but even then I should not be sorry to see your 
darling face for an hour or so) on Wednesday. If not (but I hope 
no ' not ' will be in the question) I think you will yourself think 
that considering that I have not seen you since about Jan. 26th, 
except for 3^ hours and should not see you till Christmas that really 
one hour would not be lost on your youngest little one. I am hourly 
experiencing the comfort of your last visit (I am now writing with 
some of the paper and a pen of your gift) and your face was like a 
sunbeam in the way. I want to feel your rough cheek once more, 
though I hope your Missis won't let you come so unshaven and 
unshorn as you did last time. I did delight in your beautiful flowers 
which are even now on the chimney-piece one flower I prized 
above all the rest I could almost fancy Mother picked it a little 
tiny bit of jasmine (I don't know if that's spelt right). It is so nice. 
Will you remember to bring some stamps tomorrow. 

Darling Father I am so anxious to see you again. About nj I 
shall be on the tiptoe of hope. You won't disappoint Sody ? 
You didn't say it was impossible to come, and if it is 'possible you 
will. Do bring a few more flowers please. Those stones of Cousin 
Jane's were lovely. Oh, I was so delighted with them. 

Hoping very veiy soon to see you, I need not write a very long 
letter but please give my best love to my darling darling Mother. 

I am just taxing my small brain to make up a story of a martyrdom 
in Pagan Rome, a sort of martyrdom at least ; it is meant to be 
very affecting, but I don't know if it is. I will show it you tomorrow 
I hope. 

Best best love, 

SOPHY. 

If you have got leave for me to come home it will be so much 
more if you come by yourself to tell me, and if not, if not it will 
certainly need all your presence to comfort me." 

Among other little gifts, on the occasion of this visit, her 
Father had given her a tiny note book, which she utilises at 
once as a diary : 

" Went to sleep with a sore throat . . . and a bit of mignonette 
on my bosom. Darling Mother, how I treasure her flowers. 



38 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

1 5th. Knew all my lessons better to-day, and kept my place as 
2nd. . . . Had a note from Carry. Hurrah, people don't know 
how nice it is to get a note at school. Done all my algebra for 
Mr. R. It strikes me we can do those problems in Kavanagh by 
equations." 

The joy of this discovery ! " Problems " became her 
passion : she begged friends to send her some to solve, and 
took a mischievous pleasure in sending them herself occasion- 
ally to those who had not been so fortunate as to find the 
master-key of the " unknown quantity." Sister Carry 
writes : 

" Many thanks for your letters and numerous sums ; I think the 
latter are rather overwhelming to me. I think I ought to have a 
little more instruction when you come, so please don't send me 
any more at present." 

The diary continues : 

" Did Cousin Jane's equation and am very glad I have got such 
a sensible cousin. Made one to send her, and then couldn't 
answer it myself." 

As cricket, tennis and hockey were unheard of in the girls' 
school of those days, and as the child was not allowed to ride 
or to dance, it is scarcely surprising to learn that she was 
again troubled with weakness of the joints. Mrs. H. took her 
to one " Professor Georgii " and the school doctor met them at 
his house. The patient's account of the interview is interest- 
ing in view of later developments : 

" Then he went into another room which was rather dark. Dr. 
L. said, ' I suppose I may come too. I am the physician/ and G. 
said, ' I suppose so ' ! " 

The two men examined her spine the headmistress, of 
course, being present 

" and after about ten minutes I was allowed to dress with the 2 men 
staring at me. I think they might have let us retire. . . . 

The room for exercises is hung all round with prints of skeletons 
and flayed human beings, tho' for a mercy they were covered with 
sort of curtains and only partially visible." 

She was condemned to an hour's remedial exercises every 
day for six weeks, and as it took double that time to make 



SCHOOL LIFE 39 

the pilgrimage to and from the " Professor's " house, three 
fatiguing hours were taken out of her working day. 

And all for want of a few games in due season. 

The " sheer stuff of life " was proving educative enough 
at this time, for Mrs. Jex-Blake and Sister Carry were both 
alarmingly ill, the latter with some contagious fever, the 
nature of which is not specified. It is touching to see the 
Father's letters to his schoolgirl daughter : the handwriting 
has all at once become shaky and feeble, like that of an 
old man. 

" I write in the dear Mother's room," he says in November, 1854, 
" in which and in sweet Carry's I pass the greater part of the day. 
They have both been very ill, but I think I may say that now both 
are beginning to mend. . . . From the beginning of their illnesses 
they have never been able to see each other. . . . Oh, my darling 
child, I must not conceal from you the danger the best of Mothers 
has been in. God give you to value her more than ever, and keep 
you from ever, by disobedience of any kind, hurting her feelings 
and giving her pain." 

Two days later he writes again in answer to her eager 
enquiries, 

" If, darling, I can buy anything with your money that I think 
Mummy or Carry will be pleased with, be sure I will." 

And again, three weeks later, 

" My dear child, Your letters give me great pleasure, but, great 
though it be, I will most willingly give it up to dearest Mother and 
Sister when they are well enough to read and write letters." 

On Dec. 5th, 1854, his mind is sufficiently at ease to write 
a truly delightful letter, though the handwriting is still 
shaky : 

" First and most substantially (if not principally) the " plum 
pudding " plan. It is really a capital one ' The Crimea Army 
Fund ' or some such title it bears, and subscriptions are pouring in 
to it from high and low donations of hundreds of pounds down to 
sixpences. It does not in any way interfere with the sending out 
of what you rightly enough consider are things of still greater im- 
portance ; and which (much later than it ought to have been) the 
government and the public are now despatching to the poor sufferers. 
The intention is to send out vessel after vessel as quickly as possible. 



40 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

not only with materials for plum puddings and brown stout, but to 
help our poor soldiers, officers and privates, to get through the great 
hardships and privations of their severe winter campaign, as far 
as that can be managed. Warm extra clothing, flannel shirts and 
waistcoats, stockings, gloves, leather of various kinds, needles and 
thread, tea, tobacco, sugar, preserved and potted meats, raisins, 
sugar, wine, porter and a hundred other things in large quantities 
enormous quantities for at least 40 or 50,000 men. 

Noblemen are sending deer from their parks, and game to be 
potted and preserved and sent over, and some have offered their 
yachts to convey the good things ; and tradespeople have come 
forward to give liberally from the stocks in their shops and ware- 
houses. So I shall enclose is. and think you cannot do better than 
give it as your mite in the good cause. There are as you say ' such 
hosts of things to subscribe to,' and I am very thankful for the 
privilege God gives me of being able to help. It is one of the greatest 
luxuries we can enjoy, depend upon it, my own darling. . . . There 
is no literally ' war news,' this week, but there have been terrible 
disasters among the combined fleets in the Black Sea. A most 
furious storm there the middle of last month has sadly damaged 
many of the ships, and destroyed several one went down laden 
with the intended winter store (in many articles) for our whole army, 
forty thousand specially warm great coats, and numerous other 
things in proportion, which cannot be replaced instanter, and it is 
feared that very great suffering by thousands for some weeks must 
be the consequence. The loss of that one vessel and cargo is esti- 
mated at ^1,000,000. But, worse than all the money loss, many 
hundred people perished in that and other vessels. Your cousin 
Robert, whom I don't know that you ever saw even, embarks to- 
morrow for the Crimea. He is a young lieutenant in the i8th foot. 

I think if we keep of the same mind, we can manage a back- 
gammon board when you come home, cups and all ; only, as I am 
an 'old hand at it having played, I should think almost half-a- 
century ago you will expect, please, to be soundly beaten if we 
engage together. I have read ' Patronage ' about the same period, 
perhaps, as when we played that game of backgammon, but I do think 
novels in general are very so-so things, and some so wondrous foolish 
that it is worse than waste of time to read them. . . . 

There was a good deal at Worthing l that was very pleasant, my 
sweet Sophy, and I can recollect it with satisfaction. If there was 
anything otherwise, it never even crosses my mind, I assure you ; 
and do you get rid of all thoughts of it too. I have not the smallest 
doubt that, by God's blessing, you will be a great ' comfort ' to me. 

1 There is no other reference to the visit to Worthing. 



SCHOOL LIFE 41 

I have said so a thousand times, and you won't prove Daddy a false 
prophet I know. I have nothing to ' forgive ' my own child 
nothing whatever, darling. You have had childish faults enough, I 
daresay, but they were ' the faults of a child ' certainly, and I could 
not remember a single one of them. 

I won't get a sore throat if I can help it, even for the sake of Sody's 
black-currant jam ; but, if I do catch one, I know I may have a 
whole jar if I want it, and I shall not perhaps like it the less that 
you made it. Love from all. I will not forget to come for you 
on the 23rd., my precious child. God keep you and bless you very 

much. 

Your affect. Father, 

T. J EX-BLAKE." 

At last, on December I3th, comes a letter from her Mother : 

" DARLING So, 

I feel very thankful to be once more able to enjoy a letter 
from, and to write to you. I look forward with great pleasure to 
Saturday week, but pray try to be quiet in your joy when I meet 
you, because I am still weak and soon upset, and people will be very 
vexed with you if I am the worse. Above all I could wish that you 
did not get into trouble, and say and do what you should not, because 
it agitates me to hear of it. If you, my own darling child, could but 
once realise how trying you are by your impetuosity and restlessness, 
and (must I still say ?) roughness, even when you are not put out, 
you would try very hard to conquer any outbreaking into extra 
roughness. 

And, indeed, dear So, God has bestowed upon you much where- 
with you might be agreeable, and help others, if you would but 
avail yourself of it." 

Meanwhile the scrap of a diary goes on : 

" Dec. 1 6th. . . . Got a letter from my precious sister. She says 
she is nearly well, but she is so careless of self I half mistrust her 
account, especially as I am told by Mummy and Tom she is very 
thin and pale. She speaks of a chance of her being shaved. I 
hope to goodness she won't, the darling. . . . 

Thinking of darling Dad's birthday tomorrow. I hope I shall 
wake early and be first to wish him joy. . . . His last day to be 
64 ! In his 66th year tomorrow. The darling. Sody hopes she'll 
make him so happy yet. This day weelc, heigh ho ! I must try 
and persuade Daddy to let me stay over Sunday. It will be but 
one lesson lost and two days gained and one a Sunday. . . . 

1 7th. Dear Dad's birthday. Woke up once I think, in the dark, 
and again before it was light to wish him many happy returns." 



42 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

The wishing must have been volcanic in its intensity to 
judge by what follows : 

" While dressing, Kate, who had not got up, woke up to ask, if it 
was not his birthday, she had been dreaming it was, and that he in 
consequence was playing a duet on the piano with her, but would 
play the bass first, not together with her. . . . Mrs. H. ill, not up 
all day. No Mangnall. ... I must have walked 6 miles at least. 
Wonderful for me. Had a dispute about extempore sermons, I 
saying it meant without written help, Mile and Sarah saying people 
might have notes and yet be extempore. Mile as politely and 
sapiently as usual called me nobody. She has neither sense nor 
temper to dispute. It is foolish to entangle myself with her. My 
dear Dad's birthday nearly over. 

1 8th. . . . [Mrs. H.] promised I should nurse her when I came 
back, and I did, and after dinner played chess and backgammon 
with Mrs. H. and Conny. Mrs. H. lent me Woodstock to read. 
Nice, but not equal to some of Scott's. 

Turned out some of my letters from my pocket. Hope I have not 
turned out any I want of Carry's, but they are safe in my glazed box. 

2ist. At Georgii's had a fuss with Conny in the dressing-room 
because I was complaining of having only a week and asked her if 
she would think a week enough with her Mother. She said no, 
but her Mother was better than mine. I was silly enough to be 
offended, and gave her two good slaps on her shoulders which were 
convenient, as I was doing her frock, and then we had a regular 
squabble. ... I said it was very ungenerous. I should not have 
said it if she had been my guest far away from her friends, and 
I don't believe I should, though my conscience smote me about 
Mary Bay ley." 

This reference to Mary Bayley is interesting, as Sophy had 
been at no less than three schools since the days of their 
companionship. The persistent recollection of some trifling 
unkindness is a typical instance of the compunction she 
suffered when she hurt anyone in a way she understood. 

" Got such a jolly letter from Mummy as if she had half got back 
her mischief. Two bits of French, too, we are getting on. She 
certainly deserves a ' satisfaisant '." 

When the Christmas holidays came on, Sophy's course of 
exercises from the " Professor " was not nearly over, and a 
week's interruption was the utmost that could be allowed. 
The holidays were long enough, however, to allow of another 



SCHOOL LIFE 43 

week at home towards the end of January. Her birthday 
fell in this second week, and suggestion was made that the 
two sisters should have a party and a " Christmas " tree. 
The correspondence about this little event is interesting as 
showing something of the conditions in which Sophy would 
be expected to settle down when her schooldays finally came 
to an end. The preparations contrast curiously with what 
young folk now-a-days, even in a much humbler walk of life, 
consider necessary on these occasions. 

"13 Sussex Square, 

loth Jan. 
DARLING So, 

I am so much better for the quiet I have had the last week 
that I think I may authorize you to ask Mrs. H. to advance you 4, 
or, if needful, 5 shillings to spend in little things for a Christmas 
tree. I am very anxious to have it if possible, and I think it entirely 
depends on the self-command you can exert over yourself ; if you 
and Carry will go about it quietly, and you yield at once if I say 
I do not wish to add to our numbers, or if I object on any other 
point. . . . 

One thing I must tell you that I cannot have a great many, neither 
do I wish unnecessary expense, 1 when the daily calls from societies 
where funds are failing and souls perishing for want are so numerous." 

Sister Carry writes with characteristic calm and reason- 
ableness : 

"13 Sussex Square. 

January nth. 
DEAR SOPHY, 

I suppose probabilities are now in favour of the Christmas 
tree. I don't think it need do Mummy much harm, supposing 
affairs are conducted with very unusual prudence and quietness. We 
shall defer buying any ready-made-sweetmeat-ornaments (this is 
an 8-syllabled compound word) until you come home, and then I 
think Mummy will quite like that we should get them without her 
presence. I also think it will be very desirable (if possible) that we 
should dress up the tree without troubling her much ; but I don't 
know exactly how far we should be up to it. However, I think the 



1 From their earliest years the children were drilled in the virtue of 
economy. The references to the altering and letting-down of frocks, the 
calculation of pence for ribbon or frill, the careful computation of the 
length of time a pair of boots might be expected to last, all these form 
instructive reading when one bears in mind the social position of the 
family and the large sums of money which the parents habitually gave 
away. 



44 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

most important points of all are that a certain friend of ours should 
endeavour to live in, and diffuse around her, a certain atmosphere 
of peace and calmness ; and that the tree should be quite ready 
in very good time, so that there should be no bustle or worry about 
it towards the last. ... I mean to try to provide (with pecuniary 
assistance from Mummy) some supply of purses, penwipers and markers 
for the tree ; I think a couple of cut markers such as you gave 
Daddy the other day, on broad ribbon, would be very good ; of 
course I mean them to be made by you. I suppose I shall probably 
have a letter from you tomorrow or Saturday ; I consider I ought 
to have had one. With best love, I am, dear Sophy, 
Your very affectionate sister, 

C. A. JEX-BLAKE." 

Presumably the little festival took place in due course, but 
there is no further reference to it among the papers. The 
strain of loving parental homilies continues. 

" Bear in mind that all our powers and faculties are perverted by 
the fall, but my child cannot be rid of her responsibility ; if you 
say you cannot pray, that is at once a subject for prayer. Down 
on your knees and tell God so." 

" I exceedingly like a letter from you, and bustle down a little 
earlier on Tuesday morning that I may have time to enjoy it before 
breakfast. . . . Cousins Kate and Elinor Jex-Blake say they do 
not at all delight in Mathematics, they are sorry to say." 

" We are very sorry to disappoint you, but indeed we cannot 
sanction your going to see the ' Wizard of the North.' I do hope 
and believe you will submit cheerfully to give up what it would 
make me very sleepless and unhappy to have you go to. Now get 
a victory and believe the disappointment all for the best." 

" Though I am most decidedly better, it arises, I think, from perfect 
quiet, the least change or bustle brings on spasm or headache, or 
both. Carry had Punch, and thought you sent it. I don't like 
it, I think it a vulgar paper, and don't wish it sent. I don't at all 
object to the ' Illustrated News ' occasionally." 

Apparently Sophy declined to sit down under this con- 
demnation of her beloved Punch, for a fortnight later Mrs. 
Jex-Blake writes : "I will return both the Punches in the 
hamper. The last was capital." 

In May, 1855, a family holiday in Wales was proposed, 
and, as usual, the question was raised whether Sophy could 



SCHOOL LIFE 45 

be allowed to be of the party. There is no suggestion in all 
the correspondence that, her Father ever wished to be rid of 
her company except on the ground of his wife's health. On 
May 23rd Mrs. Jex-Blake writes : 

" Daddy and I have a strong wish that you should see Wales, 
and it is truly painful to deny you such a pleasure and advantage 
but you see, dear, I can't help my health, and the being so easily 
upset and made ill by worry. Indeed I am grieved to find you can 
fully understand this, for you say your head aches if you get excited ; 
but, darling, strive to go on with your different duties and don't get 
excited. . . . Now, sweetest, assure me that you will try to be 
controlled by me, and try to fall into our habits, not always rest- 
less and having some grand scheme of your own that must be carried 
out. ... I do not ask you to promise, but if next week you feel 
you can, looking to God, assure me you will to the utmost try to be 
a comfort and 'not break out in these violent excitements, which 
not only upset me at the time but haunt and disturb me at night, . . . 
we are wonderfully anxious to give you the pleasure, but meanwhile 
don't be excited at school about it. 

Shall we not be happy at Bettws-y-Coed if darling So is with us 
and we all consider each other's comfort ? " 

The microscopic school diary had for five months been 
non-existent ; the imperious demand of this glorious antici- 
pation called a fresh volume into being. 

" Thursday, May 24th [1855.] My answer was to come about 
Wales. When I got my letter I prayed God to help me to bear it, 
for I was nearly sure it would be a refusal, and I was quite prepared 
for it and determined to keep my promise not to worry about it. 
I put my letter in my pocket and ran away from them all. Then 
I burst it open and read, ' Daddy and I have such a strong wish 
you should see Wales, and it is truly painful to deny you such a 
pleasure.' There, thought I, but I had expected it and didn't feel 
so dreadfully disappointed. Then I read on and oh, I found it was 
not so, that I should go. Oh, I got so excited and half began to cry. 
Then came Mummy's caution not to be excited, but it was impos- 
sible. Dropped down there and thanked God. Oh, then I trust 
He has granted my prayer. Glory to God in the highest. Oh, I 
was so thankful. 

25th. . . . Got a letter from Tom. How kind of him to write, 
it really was, and he has got a first bachelor's degree. G. told me 
he saw his name in the paper. 

Had a great shortness and pain in taking long breaths. G. said 



46 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

there was some irregularity in the heart, I believe. Laurie came in 
afternoon and said my heart was wrong again. Left me some 
medicine. 

28th. Mrs. H. told me to lie down and sleep if I felt tired, but I 
am much better. ... K. seized on ' Prince end Peasant ' and M. 
on ' Anecdotes of Animals ' the 2 books Miss Smith had left me. I 
was very cross, I had nothing to do. I seized on Anecdotes after 
Prayers to take up. M. was in high dudgeon, as if it was her right. 
But I carried it off. But upstairs I thought it was not right. ' In 
honour preferring one another.' So I took it her. But it was a 
hard struggle. ... I am glad I got that little victory. 

Miss C. came to G.'s for the last time. I was so sorry and so were 
most folks. She gave me a little parcel, or at least put it in my 
pocket on condition I should not open it till I got home. I thought 
it was some mischief but took it. It was such a lovely gold pencil 
case, ' from a schoolgirl.' Dear girl, it was very kind of her. 

3oth. Very difficult geometry problem. I doubt if I can do it. 

Mortimer was home, and told us some very good stories of the 

nurse of his ward. Mrs. H. said in the evening she would like to 
be nurse there (!) She said how should I get on who so hate in- 
justice, and I said I thought such open acknowledged injustice was 
not the hardest to bear. This brought down an awful storm of 
wonder, reasoning, etc., till at length I got off to bed so tired. 

June ist. A little fracas with Mile at G.'s. Little Henriquez is 
here. It is strange to be with a Jew and a R. Catholic so closely. 
Con rather worrying, and I not rather cross. Oh, dear, ' Charity 
never faileth.' ' The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is 
in the sight of God of great price.' 

Laurie came and left me some more medicine. 

4th. Miss Teed's birthday. Many happy returns to her. Wonder 
if Carry remembers. ... I want so to know Minnie's exact birthday. 

know it is near. . . . 

Went in the gardens. K. and S. persecuted me with grass and I 
can't run after them. When I <;aught S. and when we were indoors 
I gave it her rather roughly. She was very cross and would not 
have any of [my] jam at tea, she never will when she is cross with me. 
Got a sore throat. 

5th. Throat very fairly bad, and very ' cheval ' as M. would 
say. Apropos it's her birthday. . . . 

Just before prayers I was in the cupboard and someone shut the 
door nearly on me. I threw it open again and half upset the great 
slate. We had been rather uproarious all afternoon as M's sisters 
had been here and said holidays did begin on i8th. When I came 
out of the cupboard I managed to tread on M's toes, and Mile 
packed me off to bed. I said ' All right,' shook hands with her, 



SCHOOL LIFE 47 

kissed S. and went off. Mile wasn't very angry nor I very sorry and 
so we were all very comfable. Seized on K. for a kiss as she came 
up and she seemed forbidden to speak to me. However we had a 
nice hug and she wasn't very horrified. 

6th. Found a handbill on my dressing-table from Mrs. H. ' for 
Sophy ' called Telling Jesus." 

This entry closes the school diary. 

She seems to have remained at the Netting Hill school 
till Easter, 1856, and to have carried away with her the 
warm good will and genuine if sorely tried respect of her 
headmistress, Mrs. H., with whom she kept up a correspon- 
dence for some time. For another year and a half she seems 
to have attended some school at Brighton within reach of 
her home, but study here was discouraged, and she became 
the patient of another doctor or quack ? who prescribed a 
course of rubbing. 

" Under the new regulation of no study," writes Mrs. H. t " I 
suppose you have plenty and to spare of the dolce far niente. I 
smiled at the ' few lessons,' and wondered in what occupation you 
might possibly spend your 24 hours. ... Be assured, dear Sophy, 
that so much trifling and frivolity is culpable in the sight of Heaven. 
It is an unworthy waste of God's gifts, and you are capable of some- 
thing so much better ! " 

That life, even now, was not all " trifling and frivolity " is 
obvious from the following letter, which was written a few 
weeks later : 

" Monday, Sept. 8th. 1856. 

MY OWN DARLING MOTHER, 

This subject of confirmation has come up again, and I really 
must say I am positively shocked at the way it is settled and talked 
about. It is ' How old are you ? ' ' Does your Papa wish you to 
be confirmed ? ' and never, ' Are you fit to be ? ' or ' Do you really 
wish it ? ' It is just as if it were a history lecture to be attended. 
I really think it is wicked. Miss H. took it for granted that I should 
be and stuck down my name. I said, ' No thank you, Miss H.,' to 
her great indignation. I assured her you wished me to do exactly as 
I liked on such a subject, which she did not choose to believe at all. 

But I really do wish it, Mother. I think it would help me, and 
I long to take the Lord's Supper with you. Will you let me be 
confirmed from home ? that is, spend the actual day of confir- 
mation at home, so that I may think of something besides how I 



48 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

am dressed and how good or bad an examination I passed, on the 
day I take those solemn promises on myself. Mother, dear, I seem 
less able to speak to you than anyone, but I do feel very much 
about it. It is just, ' I have gone astray like a lost sheep, seek 
Thy servant, for I do not forget Thy commandments,' I do hope. 
No, I can't write what I mean or anything else. Just write me one 
line by return of post. Mr. E. is certainly not the minister I should 
have chosen, nor Miss H.'s the place I should have preferred, but 
I don't think that ought to stand in the way, for it is not in respect 
to them I stand. 

I think I should have preferred waiting another year, but I don't 
think I can quite expect God's blessing on His child while I defer 
owning myself such. 

Oh, Mother, Mother, how I wish you were here, but it seems as 
if He had expressly left me to myself each time confirmation has 
been spoken of. I do not think you will refuse either the permission 
I ask, or your blessing on the step I take, unless it would be too 
great an excitement for you, though it need not be, for you need 
not go with me. . . . 

Well, darling, just tell me what you mean and think. But pray, 
pray, don't show any of this to anyone. . . . 

God bless and keep my darling Mother. 

Farewell, precious. 

Your own child, 

SOPHY." 

" I like the idea of your being confirmed very much," her 
Father had written some months before. " God's blessing 
be with you. Look to Him and be happy." 

Sophy's first schoolmistress, Mrs. Teed, took a different 
view of the matter : 

" loth Oct. 1856. 

DEAREST SOPHY, 

Your dear Mother tells me you are soon to be confirmed. 
When I. read her letter I thought to myself, Confirmed ! in what ? 
in following your own foolish ways ? There needs no confirmation 
in that. . . . 

You told me in a letter written to me on my last birthday that 
you hoped you were one of Christ's little ones. O dear Sophy, you 
know better. ... I do not say do not deceive yourself, but I say 
never seek to deceive others," and so on. 

Those who have read with some sympathy the preceding 
pages may well be inclined to doubt whether Sophy was 
" seeking to deceive others," or rather, perhaps, whether 



SCHOOL LIFE 49 

deception with her did not more readily take the form of 
concealing the depth and reality of her religious life. Christ's 
lambs have not all been precisely of the type good Mrs. Teed 
had in mind. The real difficulty, however, is to fit the child 
into the categories of the pious people among whom she lived, 
or indeed, into any category at all. For better or for worse, 
she belonged to another plane of being. 

If one were compelled to adopt the system of classification 
current in those days, one could but fall back with thankful- 
ness on the remembrance of that " hasty image " of the Good 
Shepherd in the Catacombs, 

" And, on his shoulders, not a lamb, a kid." 

In any case the stormy chequered school career had now 
come to a close. " I can't fancy you, Sophy, with long 
frocks," an old school-friend writes, " taller than Hetty, a 
regular grown-up young lady. Are you transformed yet ? 
Do let me see you first like your own old dear self ! " 

" Your own old dear self ! " One almost weeps to think 
of all the unnecessary friction and waste of energy in those 
school days. Those of us who have been teachers know how 
often the troublesome pupil proves to be the pick of the 
basket, the keen student and the loyal co-worker : and 
perhaps more than one headmistress who reads these pages 
will wish that she had been privileged to have the training of 
Sophia Jex-Blake. Many admirable women prayed and wept 
over her in those days, struggled to make her all they thought 
she ought to be ; and, if their perseverance and devotion 
seemed to be inadequately rewarded, this was due to no fault 
of theirs. They were what the Society of that day demanded, 
what Society made them. They were wanting only in what 
just chanced to be almost the one thing needful, the modern 
spirit. Rather behind their own day, their lot was to be the 
trainers of a girl, who unconsciously to herself was far in 
advance of her own day, a girl who would have appreciated 
to the utmost the free boyish education of our High Schools 
for girls, and who had it been her good fortune to have 
lived under such auspices might have written a somewhat 
different page in the book of life. 



CHAPTER V 
LIFE AT HOME 

IT is with a definite sense of relief that one takes up the 
thread of S. J.-B.'s life after she leaves school. She is still, 
it is true, a problem and a perplexity to many, and some- 
times to those who loved her best : but at least she appeals 
now to a wider tribunal : her qualities get a chance to tell, 
even if they do not precisely conform to the pattern laboriously 
cut out by an early Victorian schoolmistress. 

Her health, unhappily, still left a good deal to be desired. 
The doctors had much to say of the irritability of her brain. 
The stethoscope was supposed, too, to reveal something 
wrong with her heart, but this must have been functional, as 
no trace of it was discoverable in after life. Riding, for- 
tunately was now allowed, and she entered into the enjoy- 
ment of it with characteristic intensity ; but beyond this, in 
the early days of her comparative freedom, she certainly 
took no pains to improve her physique. The enterprising 
young women of those days had still so much to learn ! It 
seldom occurred to them to balance their physical expenditure 
with their receipts. 

Meanwhile it is not to be supposed that her parents had 
gained greater control over her than when she was a child : 
they remained quite uncompromising in the matter of dancing, 
theatre-going, and other " worldly " amusements, but they 
were unsuccessful in making her conform to the ordinary, 
wholesome, old-fashioned routine of English family life. 
Naturally her self-will in this respect annoyed both parents 
very much, and Mrs. Jex-Blake must often have been sorely 



LIFE AT HOME 51 

put to it to restrain her own impatience and to preserve any 
semblance of peace. 

To her credit be it said that she rose to a difficult situation 
in a manner that makes praise an impertinence. One is glad 
to gather from the records that her physical health was now 
on a firmer basis than formerly, but that was only one element 
in the case. Always a deeply religious woman, she seems to 
have stepped now into the full freedom of her faith, faith, 
not only in God, but in the essential goodness and uprightness 
of her wayward child. She seems to have realized fully for 
the first time that the stormy ways which tried her so sorely 
were not a mere matter of whim and wilfulness, but that they 
arose from a definite strain in her daughter, a strain that 
caused no small suffering to the owner of that nature, a 
strain possibly fundamental in character, certainly far too 
deeply imbedded to be easily eradicated. And, having realized 
this, the Mother set herself, not as before to criticise the evil, 
but to foster and rejoice in the good, to make life as easy as 
might be, to reduce friction to a minimum, and, above all, 
to surround her daughter with a real glow and radiance of 
sympathy. 

How sorely tried that sympathy must often have been, we 
can partly understand when we compare the old-world 
fragrance of the Mother's personality with all that is sug- 
gested to us now by the name of Sophia Jex-Blake. " When 
I was young," the Mother used to say, " it was not a question 
of whether we should marry, but simply of whom we should 
marry." And to her lot fell a daughter who rarely thought 
of marriage at all, whose brain was teeming with all sorts 
of unfettered boyish ambitions, who made it clear to everyone 
whom it might concern that she meant to live her own life, 
to " make good the faculties of herself " in the way that 
pleased her best. 

And yet there was something in all this audacious, spon- 
taneous life that found an answering chord in the Mother's 
heart. She was not a phlegmatic conventional person by 
nature herself. She too, perhaps, long before, had beaten 
eager wings against the bars. In any case from this time 
on the friendship between the two was a sacred thing, never 



52 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

flagging, comparable with the most beautiful friendships in 
history. 

Fortunately we have S. J.-B.'s own account of those first 
days at home : 

" 1857. Dec. i7th. Thursday. Came home for good. For 
good ? Who can tell ? Oh, what would I give to look forward 
ten, aye five, short years, and see what I shall be. Just 18 ; half my 
life at school. Then 28. Dr. Moore says, and there seems a 
strange prophecy in his words, that I shall be something, something 
good if not great, but not in the way I hope ; 1 that ' on a ruin of 
broken columns and shattered Grecian capitols, shall be laid the 
foundation of a temple of God.' There's something comes home 
to my heart in those shattered columns, 

' The dearest idol I have known, 

Whate'er that idol be, 
Help me to tear it from Thy throne, 
And worship only Thee.' 

Oh, that I had the strength, the faith, to pray so honestly, but 
God help me ! I have prayed little enough lately. I seem in such 
a torpor, such a prostration of mind, body, and, I fear, soul. I 
hope there is much physical in this. 

That beautiful hymn, ' What peaceful hours I once enjoyed ! ' 
Once. So it is, and now. Never mind; I think God must have 
some mercy, some hope, to me when He has given and preserved 
to me my darling, my angel Mother. She seems a pledge of hope. 

Well, shall I be a great authoress as my day and night dreams 
prompt me to hope ? . . . Shall I ever be a happy wife and mother ? 
Shall I ere ten years, or half ten years have passed, be dust ? . . . I 
sometimes think so. (June ist. 1869. At any rate never thought of 
being a sawbones.) 

Dec. 25th. How awfully sentimental my first entries do look ! 
. . . Daddy says he is sorry I have anything that ' wants a lock.' 
Hm, how very well he understands me and my wants ! Never 
mind ; dear old man, he is very loving and kind if not brilliant. 
Oh, Mother, Mother, what should I do without you ? . . . Just 
said how earnestly I hoped never to see one dear to me die, that 
I may die first. ' Oh, don't think of self at all, Sophy,' she said, 
' Just see what good you can do.' Right. 

31 st. Writing now in my own dear room, darling Mother, how 
every article in it speaks of her love ! They have gone to a New 



1 " Dec. aoth, 1859. Strange truth this : How already that hope has 
changed ! " 



LIFE AT HOME 53 

Year's Eve prayer meeting at St. Mark's School, uncommonly 
slow, I should think. I do think however ' good ' I became, or 
rather I wonder whether I ever could like such very slow spiritu- 
alities. Still there's Bishop Wilberforce and his ' scaffolding.' 
Don't cry ' spirit ' and take away ' means,' remove the scaffolding 
because its work is not accomplished." 

For some time she had been writing a story based on her 
own school life at Mrs. Teed's, a story that was never 
finished. It is very well written of course, but diffuse, and 
interesting chiefly for its autobiographical touches. She is 
intensely loyal to both school and schoolmistress, and one 
feels on reading her descriptions a fresh sense of regret that 
it should have been necessary to take her away from an 
atmosphere that seems in many ways to have suited her 
so well. 

One episode is definitely autobiographical, and it is of 
more than passing interest. The small schoolchildren in the 
story, playing at " shop," have helped themselves to a quantity 
of " jewels " in the shape of scraps of coloured quartz, etc., 
from a grotto in the garden. The theft being discovered, 
the heroine is called up first, and, in great fear and trembling, 
owns to having taken one of the fragments. Questioned as 
to a second, and fearing to add to her condemnation, she 
falters, " I don't know." Due punishment follows (banish- 
ment to bed and enforced reading of the chapter about Eli's 
sons), then a public scene in hall and forgiveness. Now comes 
the point of the episode : 

" But still there was one leaden weight on me, the story I had 
told [Mrs. Teed] the day before. It seemed as though the forgive- 
ness was not thorough, nor of full value while part of the offence 
was concealed. How easy it would have been I now saw to confess 
the whole offence at once, how difficult now ! Remembrance, how- 
ever, of the sorrow of the day before, and some innate love of truth, 
as I hope, urged me on, and when, after prayers [Mrs Teed] passed 
away through the door at the extreme end of the schoolroom, I 
ran to meet her at the foot of the great staircase which she must 
ascend to her private rooms, and said hurriedly, ' Mothy, I think 
I did not tell you quite the truth yesterday. I said I did not know 
who picked out the bit of yellow quartz. I think I did know 
I did.' 

' Thank God, my child/ she said gently but solemnly, ' that you 



54 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

have told me the truth now. It is better than a thousand pieces 
of quartz.' . . . 

Reward enough I certainly had at the time in my lightened heart 
from that moment, but the effort I had made seemed hardly to merit 
such rich recompense as it received some time after when I heard 
that Mothy had said that she would believe everything told her 
by [S. J.-B.] as if she had seen it herself. 

Oh, how proud and happy was I at that moment, and the desire 
fully to merit testimony so inexpressibly sweet to me had, I verily 
believe, far more effect on the truthfulness of all my after life than 
any suffering or punishment could have had ; and it in great measure 
saved me from sinking utterly in after time into that slough of deceit 
into which almost all schoolgirls do fall at one time or another in 
more difficult circumstances and in the midst of a lower tone than 
that of Hertford House. And, though many will deem, and 
perhaps rightly, the distinction of little worth, though often in 
those after days, under less noble rule, guilty of equivocation, I do 
not think I ever from that day told a lie." 

We return to the diary : 

" 1858. Jan. 7th. . . I must begin to write again if I don't mean 
to lose the knack . . . and so ought to go on with Hertford House 
or write something. ... I want partly to write for the money, 
now why, I wonder ? Honestly, why ? I have plenty of every- 
thing. In a handsome if not luxurious home, 6 servants all much 
at my orders, lots of rides, a most loving Mother, tender father, 
almost every wish gratified, ^30 a year clear, and lots of presents, 
almost at will, why I should write for money unless I am avaricious 
or spendthrift I don't exactly know. Partly for the pride of earning 
it, of knowing myself as well able to earn my bread as my inferiors. 
Surely, though, I ought least of all in my list of comforts blessing, 
should I say ? to omit my most happy, most snug nutshell of a 
room, with its handsome furniture, cosy fire, and thoroughly comfort- 
able arrangements. How truly loving my most precious pearl of 
a Mother has been to me in this especially. . . . 

I have conceived a rather wild idea of writing to Miss M. for 
counsel and sympathy. . . . But how get a letter to her ? And, 
if I did, would she think it a bore ? I think not. Send the letter 
to her publishers ? Sure not to be opened ? Then what to say 
if I do write ? What do I want ? Don't exactly know. 

Well, leave it. 

Now for the more important at least more solemn part of todays 
journal. And I must make this some use. Just heard a sermon 
from Mr. Vaughan on ' Truth,' Gehazi being the scape-goat of 
warning. He spoke strongly of allowing ourselves to say more on 



LIFE AT HOME 55 

religious subjects than we feel, calling it a dangerous deception and 
leading to worse. But does that include speaking a word earnest 
and sincere at least about the souls of others, tho' our own may 
not be safe ? Often at school I have felt driven to speak very 
solemnly to girls about their souls when I feel I am not worthy to 
say a word, for mine is perhaps as lost as theirs, and often and often 
have risen in my throat, ' Lest when I have preached to others I 
myself become a castaway.' Yet if I am, oh, fearful word, I can 
hardly write it, if lost (oh, God, save me !) can it, would it not 
console, if consolation were possible, to know I had warned others 
from the pit into which I fell. And I hope I may have done some 
little good. '. . . And how happy I have felt and better in myself 
too, if I have even for a moment led some to think of Jesus else 
forgotten. . . . 

Dearest Mrs. Teed is dead. ' Blessed are the dead that die in the 
Lord.' ' Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last 
end be like his !' ... 

Dear Carry ! At a moment like this I can't help thinking ' The 
righteous is more excellent than his neighbour.' Oh, how far, far 
more excellent than I am and yet I have sometimes almost despised 
her because perhaps she has less intellectual power, for I do believe 
God has given me some genius, surely there is no pride in saying 
so, remembering His grace, who gave thee all. 

Jan. 8th. Feel very much as if I had been sentimentalizing last 
night. I wish I could keep in one frame of mind. 

Jan. loth. Sunday. Just been reading the ch. on ' Happy and 
Unhappy Women ' in ' Woman's Thoughts.' The Authoress speaks 
strongly about a sort of repining and melancholy, and about 
neglected health and almost voluntary sickness, i.e. voluntary in 
not taking proper remedies and safe-guards, and I cannot but feel 
much she says is not more than truth. 

She urges action, usefulness. 

Now I cannot but consider whether it does not become me to 
attend to her hints, or rather to her arguments. Well I am not. 
Over mental exertion may have had, and I believe has had, very 
bad effects, still whether by my own fault directly or indirectly I 
don't make matters worse, is another question. And certainly my 
Father and Mother are getting wretchedly anxious about me . . . 
perhaps, unless I make an effort, I may find life ebbing ere half its 
purposes are accomplished. . . . 

At all events efforts are mine, though results are God's. Yet 
tho' I try to draw brilliant pictures of the future, and to persuade 
myself life is sweet, I can't but feel that, if I were once assured of 
peace with God, I could be well content, nay grateful, to escape the 
waves of this troublesome world, and flee away and be at rest. Rest ! 



56 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Surely it is hardly natural at my age to be longing for it so. ... 1 
But coward ! take God's benefits and flee His service, His battle ? 
It should be our's ' to act and to suffer, to do and to pray.' No, it 
cannot be right to flee rather than to overcome. 

Well, to return. If I am, and ought, to preserve my health, how ? 
Suppose I make some kind of plan for the day, not rigid but sugges- 
tive. 

Rise, breakfast with the rest of the world. 8. 

Have for walk till n. 

Then either some master or work for myself, writing, painting, 
etc., till dinner, i. 

Afternoon will be sure to be taken up with driving. Come in 
about 4. Then read till tea. After tea write, or read out downstairs. 
And go to bed with the rest of the world. 

That would be rather more rational than my present programme : 

Rise and breakfast at 1 1 or later. Dawdle till dinner. 

Drive. Read till tea. Read or write till 2 or 3 a.m. Well, that 
does sound bad. . . . 

Mother and I were talking about my marrying, the chances 
pro and con. I said I did not fancy I should ever marry, for I thought 
I should require too many qualities to meet in the man I could 
think of as my husband, for it to be likely that I should ever meet 
such a paragon who could be willing to marry me. 

Let me see ; the indispensables are I think : A perfect gentle- 
man, a sincere Christian, a liberal-minded broad-churchman ; a 
lofty intellect to which it would be a pride to bow, a firm will which 
it would be a pleasure to submit to and concur in ; a nice-looking 
fellow, for I could not be happy with one whose face I could not 
love and admire in beauty of expression if not of form, and one 
whose means combined with mine would lift us above genteel 
poverty at least. . . . 

Had another squabble with Carry because she told me my own 
Hertford House, which I was looking over, was not fit for Sunday. 
She does meddle awfully. Still, she's a precious sight better than 
I am. . . . Bother her slow blood ! She'll drive me mad, she and 
Daddy between them. Never mind, I have got my jewel of a Mother, 
bless her ! 

24th. Sunday. Talking in the evening about an old woman in 
Carry's district who came from the Barrack Ground, Hastings. 
And that put it strong into my head how I wanted to go there. 
I had on Saturday evening written a letter to Amelia about the 



1 This longing for rest was something deeper than the ordinary senti- 
mentality of adolescence. She always said that by nature she was lazy, 
and the saying was not devoid of truth. 



LIFE AT HOME 57 

treat, and then I thought how nice it would be to go and give the 
treat myself. 

3oth. Saturday. Seven years today since I last saw old Hastings. 
Isn't it strange to return that day seven years ! Pouring wet day. 
Rather afraid of being disappointed in Hastings, I do love it so. 
But I seemed so to have gone over and over every part in my dreams 
that I could not be disappointed. I know it all so well. . . . After 
dinner went to call on the Andrews. I thought I would go incog, 
and see if they remembered me. Amelia opened the door. ' I 
think the Miss Andrews live here ? * ' Yes, ma'am ' 'Are you not 
connected with the Infant School ? ' ' Yes, ma'am.' I asked if 
I might come and see the children. She assented quite soberly. 
I couldn't stand it, jumped at her, and pinned her to the wall for a 
kiss. She knew me in a moment, seized my hands and dragged me 
in in wild delight. . . . 

Then I went to No. 3 [Croft Place] and when Mrs. L. said she 
did not know me, I said, ' I wonder if the house does, for I was born 
in it.' Then she knew me instantly." 

All this gives a vivid picture of the warm heart and riotous 
spirits that endeared her to her friends, but there are not 
wanting indications of the mysterious depression and fore- 
bodings the dread of something worse than death that are 
part of the heritage of gifted youth. 

" a6th. Friday. I am afraid I don't care near so much for as 
I did, am I changeable or is she changed ? or is my standard 
altered ? . . . I read once of a person whose physical condition 
was such that he could not love one person intensely for long, not 
many years if thrown much together. ... I sometimes fear I am 
similarly constituted. For even those nearest and dearest I have 
experienced those fluctuations. ... It is like a frightful trance to 
know that I cannot keep a warm deep love equal ; and yet in 
a manner the real undercurrent of love flows on even in these 
estrangements, I cannot in myself cease to love one who has ever 
been the object of that wild adoring love, though in my outer mind 
and heart this tormenting, fiendlike malady makes me hate and 
shrink from them while its fearful influence reigns. God grant 
there is no touch of insanity in it ; no words can tell how I dread 
and deprecate it. There is a loathsome horrible fear in my mind 
of its coming ever and anon. My .... my beautiful, whom I used 
to think mysteriously close to my soul, it has come on her. Oh, 
God pity me ! I fear I shall go wild. Every action, every word of 
her's seems to anger me unreasonably, I feel the fiend on me and 
yet the wild resistless love will not quite be swept away, and comes 



58 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

back in floods of passing tenderness for a moment. And I can't 
tell her, make her understand, and she will lose her love for me 
and oh, dear I am very miserable. God grant in pity it may never 
fall on my Mother ! I have a horrible dread of it. I could not 
live without her love, my love for her. And I feel such wild 
maddening love now, as if I knew it would soon be out of my power 
to love her." 

This, of course, is morbid, and yet here again one is forced 
to say that her depression is neither feigned nor wholly 
without reason. Many people have experienced in some degree 
the elemental fitfulness which she describes, and she pro- 
bably understoo'd it better than most. And yet how many 
can testify to her fundamental and self-sacrificing constancy ! 
But there is no doubt that at this period she was living far 
too self-absorbed a life, dreaming too much, thinking too 
much of herself. It was time for something to happen, 
and fortunately something did happen. Two breezy whole- 
some girl cousins half Irish, half Norfolk came to Sussex 
Square on a visit. They were the daughters of Ferrier 
Jex-Blake, S. J.-B.'s uncle, but it chanced that she had 
never met them before. She was out dining with friends 
when they arrived, 

" When I did come home, I went to take off my things, then to 
the drawing-room, kissed them coolly enough, said, ' How d'ye do, 
cousins ? ' and sat down to rattle. Tried hard to shock them with all 
sorts of nonsense, and then carried them to see my room, and made 
them some coffee. They, Elinor and Sarah, knew nothing of me, 
and did not much admire me, I guess, that night. 

By degrees, however, a very warm friendship sprang up. 

" Oh, dear, those two girls ! " she writes a fortnight later. " What 
a flood of happiness they have brought into the house. And made 
me behave a little too. Sarah makes me attend to my hair. Oh, 
dear, home is a different place since they have been here. I am 
so happy. All my gloom and troubles swept off like cobwebs." 

When they are gone, she writes pages of analysis of their 
characters, and very able analysis it is. This is how it con- 
cludes : 

" I feel as if I mean to love Ellie most, and Sarah forces me to 
love her most. I love Ellie most in my mind, and Sarah most in 



LIFE AT HOME 59 

my heart. Sarah clings to me so, leans on me. Ellie walks upright 
beside me, a companion, a guide, and gives me a hand. There 
certainly is something of the angel about Ellie, with much of the 
woman. You don't connect the idea of angel with Sarah. 

Sarah will do almost anything for me. I do not think she has 
refused me one thing since she loved me. She rode with me when no 
one on earth could get her to mount a horse ; she went in a boat 
with me, though she never will enter one. Oh, she is so good, so 
loving to me. I wish I had her always. 

And I am going to them at Dunham, my darlings." 

When it became known that she was going on a visit to 
Great Dunham, a number of Norfolk relatives on both sides 
of the house asked her to visit them also, and the result was 
that for the next two months she had quite a gay time, 
beginning with her Mother's elder sister, Mrs. Taylor, and 
going from her to the Ferrier Jex-Blakes, the Evans, the 
Blake Humfreys, the Cubitts and others. As a rule not 
without exceptions she captivated her girl cousins, proved 
very attractive to her uncles and elderly male cousins, and 
contrived to rub along with her aunts. " I never appreciated 
my old Daddy till now," she writes on one occasion, " I 
really believe, as Mummy says, he never said an un-nice 
thing in his life, or approached a coarse or ungentlemanly 
joke. He is certainly a beau-ideal gentleman, ' Chevalier 
sans reproche.' " 

Of one family she says, " Not very quiet and not specially 
dutiful. Rather reminds me of us, only they are more good- 
tempered over it." 

" Uncle Evans amused me exceedingly at lunch yesterday, giving 
his opinion in quite energetic style, and as if he had studied the 
subject, that not only I should marry, which I said I shouldn't, 
but very soon. . . . Heaven knows who it could be. ... I never 
saw the man I would have." 

At Wroxham she made the acquaintance of a cousin, 
Robert Blake-Humfrey, who was deeply interested in ques- 
tions of pedigree, heraldry, etc., and he found in the creator 
of Sackermena an apt pupil. 

" Hurrah ! Going in for a good morning's work at the pedigree, gj. 

Near one ! well, well ! I certainly have had pedigree to my 

heart's content. Been hard at work for 3! hours till my back aches 



6o SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

and I am properly tired. Never mind, I have learned a good deal 
and secured a good deal. It is very kind of Robert to trust me with 
his valuable pedigrees, so beautifully emblazoned." 

Mr. Blake-Humfrey was good enough to consider that he 
too derived benefit from the lessons. " Your observant 
eyes," he writes when she is gone, " have done good ser- 
vice in sundry ways towards the correction of errors, which 
may atone in some measure for the mischief they are well- 
calculated to cause in other ways." 

On May 28th she visited her Mother's old home, Honing 
Hall, and made the acquaintance of an elderly uncle who was 
something of a character. 

" He offered lunch, and then took us up to see the rooms. All 
shutters up, and had to be re-opened and re-shut. In an upstairs 
sitting-room I unluckily wanted to see a Family Bible, and said, 
' Is that the Family Bible with the names, etc. ? ' ' Yes, it is. 
You leave it alone unless you want to see it. I persisted I did 
and he took it down. Then out came Burke's Gentry and alia. . . . 
I thought I should have been eaten up the way he roared at me. 
I asked if he hadn't a pedigree, and he almost roared again, wanting 
to know what I could want better than Burke. I might have told 
him there were no shields, no intermarriages, etc., but I held my 
peace, he really frightened me. I got him to show me my dear 
old Mother's room as a girl, and kissed the bed and furniture. 
Thought of her as a girl there, her fun and her troubles, her courting- 
days perhaps and the letters and thought and hopes that room had 
witnessed. My precious darling Mother ! " 

In July she returned to Brighton, " much better and better- 
tempered " as she expresses it, for the outing. Richer, too, 
she was, in her whole outlook on life, and particularly in the 
knowledge of her girl-cousins, Elinor and Sarah Jex-Blake, 
and Mary Evans, with all of whom the friendship was to 
prove a lasting one. 

A month later, to Sophy's great joy, Cousin Ellie accom- 
panied the Sussex Square party on a holiday visit to Wales. 

Primary education at Bettws-y-Coed was at a low ebb in 
those days, the village school being in the hands of a cobbler 
whose acquirements were not great, and whose idea of dis- 
cipline was primitive in the extreme. Caroline and Sophy 
Jex-Blake became deeply interested in the children and 



LIFE AT HOME 61 

gradually fell into the habit of taking a class in reading, 
arithmetic, geography, etc. It was an arrangement that 
gave great satisfaction to all concerned, and one into which 
Sophy entered with whole-hearted enthusiasm. One is not 
surprised to gather from the letters of the period that she 
awakened a feeling deeper than interest in one of the pro- 
fessional men with whom she was brought in contact, but 
the diary makes no reference to the fact, and she may not 
even have been aware of it. 

" To me and to others as far as I can judge," writes Cousin 
Ellie about this date, " she is the warmest-hearted person 
ever I came across." 

And six months later, reviewing the events of an eventful 
year, S. J.-B. writes : 

" But among the events of the old year, first and chief, my becoming 
friends with my darlings, my stars, and getting acquainted with the 
Evans and all the Norfolk folks." 



CHAPTER VI 
LIFE AT QUEEN'S COLLEGE 

MEANWHILE, in the world outside, the feminist movement 
was beginning to make itself felt, if one may describe by 
so inadequate a name an uprising which is due perhaps as 
much to the men as to the women who have taken part in 
it. As regards the whole movement S. J.-B. was living as 
completely in a backwater as was possible to a girl of her 
position and natural gifts ; but sooner or later a current 
from the main river was bound to come in even to her little 
creek. 

In the spring of 1858 she had made the acquaintance of 
Miss Benson, sister of the Archbishop. " Henry and Ada 
Benson came," is the brief record in her diary. " Pleasant, 
jolly girl, Ada." The wanderings of that pleasant summer 
hindered the development of the friendship for the moment, 
but the thread was happily taken up again in the autumn. 

" Yesterday went with Ada to the Swedish minstrels. Veiy 
strange and beautiful. . . . After concert went for a drive in the 
pony-chaise. Just beyond the battery a carriage and pair drove 
into us. Coachman got down and was very civil. Everyone said 
it was no fault of mine ; he was trying to cut in between two. I 
was not the least frightened. 

Speaking to Ada on Thursday night revived the idea of Queen's 
College. Her sister there. Wrote Friday for prospectus. Tried 
to speak to Daddy last night. He very impracticable, I after a 
while very undutif ul. At last I went into hysterics l which' frightened 



1 It was an interesting and typical stage in the development of women 
when a girl found it necessary to "go into hysterics " in order to convince 
her father of her right to an education. 



LIFE AT QUEEN'S COLLEGE 63 

him dreadfully, poor old man. I shall certainly go, I think. 
Michaelmas term begins 4th prox. I should very much like a year's 
or even less, good work, and a few certificates. 

Very good last night Ada Benson's story of the Bishop of 

' Opposed as I am to the Catholic faith, opposed, as I say I am to 
the Catholic faith . . .'on which a priest from the body of the meeting, 
' Which faith except . . ., etc.' 

How she always did delight in a good story ! The most 
strenuous passages of the diary are interspersed with pages 
of jokes, riddles, anagrams, bon-mots, some very good, some 
as she herself admits on reflection, very indifferent. She 
used to say that a sense of humour had been her salvation, 
that, but for that, she never could have got through the 
many struggles of her life. 

And one is glad to think how often that sense of humour 
must have come to relieve the intensity of that first conscious 
struggle for freedom, when -she herself felt that in venturing 
forward she was renouncing a good deal, that the life before 
her was an uncharted sea. 

" Worst thing about Queen's College is no Sarah till Christmas," 
she writes. M. brought me an invite to write for the Sunday School 
Quarterly. Sat up till 2 a.m. Friday to write story on i8th after 
Trinity. I wonder if I shall succeed, and, if so, how compatible 
with Queen's ? 

Sept. 25th. All settled for Queen's. Mrs. Williams writes very 
kindly. . . . Having rather hard work with Redknap, five lessons 
a week. Must try for 2nd class in Mathematics, and, if I can, for 
more. 

Absurd panic at Dunham lest I should be a ' governess ' 1 Awful 
phantom ! " 

It is difficult for girl students of the present day to imagine 
all that was meant by the opening of Queen's College in 1858. 
The plan of establishing a college for women had been much 
discussed by Alfred Tennyson, Charles Kingsley, and others ; 
and the work had been warmly taken up by Frederick Denison 
Maurice, E. H. Plumptre (afterwards Dean of Wells) and R. C. 
Trench (afterwards Archbishop of Dublin), all three of whom 
were represented on the teaching staff. 1 We may imagine 

1 See Mrs. Alec Tweedie's interesting record of " The First College for 
Women." 



64 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

what it meant for S. J.-B. to pass from the hands of the aver- 
age schoolmistress of that day to teachers such as these. 

On the 5th October she settled down to work, and three 
days later she writes : 

" Very delicious it is to be here. ' Oh, if there be an Elysium on 
earth, it is this, it is this ! ' I am inclined to say. I am as happy 
as a queen. Work and independence ! "What can be more charming? 
Really perfection. So delicious in the present, what will it be to 
look back upon ? " 

She was " fay " that night, as they say in Scotland : it 
was scarcely lucky to be so happy. She little guessed, poor 
child, " what it would be to look back upon " her life at 
Queen's. Much happiness she got from that life, no doubt, 
a rich harvest of education, contact with interesting tem- 
peraments and able minds, friendships that were only broken 
by death. But there are some people endowed for better or 
worse, with the gift of taking what seem to be the side-issues 
of life far too intensely, of living half-a-dozen lives in addition 
to the one they have definitely chosen, of wringing out of an 
average human lot an amount of joy, of experience and of 
suffering that to their companions would seem simply incre- 
dible. And S. J.-B. was essentially one of these. Incident- 
ally in the course of the day's work she would develop fresh 
interests, make unusual friendships, perhaps even incur 
resentments that might well have demanded her whole 
strength and energy ; and all these threads had to be carried 
on in addition to the recognized work of her life. 

That the recognized work was in itself no sinecure may be 
gathered from her report for the Michaelmas term. She has 
"good," sometimes "very good" reports in all her seven 
classes, four of them being signed by F. D. Maurice, E. H. 
Plumptre and R. C. Trench. The classes were arithmetic, 
geometry and algebra, English language and composition, 
French, history, natural philosophy and astronomy, theology, 
and church history. 

She was popular with her fellow-students, and particularly 
so with Miss Agnes Wodehouse (afterwards Mrs. Williams) 
whom she greatly admired, and of whom she made, incident- 
ally, as profound a study as she did of her Euclid and history. 



LIFE AT QUEEN'S COLLEGE 65 

41 How few ladies there are ! " she concludes. " Agnes 
Wodehouse is thorough. So is my Mother. Few else." 
And again in this connection, " I believe I love women too 
much ever to love a man. Yet who can tell ? Well, S. J.-B., 
don't get sentimental, for patience' sake." 

Unfortunately she was not so appreciative of one of the 
younger women who was more or less in authority over her. 
The new student meant no harm, but she took playful liberties, 
and no doubt, as formerly at school, amused the other girls 
by her wit and audacity. After a good deal of sparring and 
chaffing, things came to an impasse, and it was judged better 
by all concerned that S. J.-B. should seek a home for herself 
elsewhere. This was not an easy matter in those days 
when hostels and homes of residence for women students 
were unknown ; and so, to the other work of her life, was 
added the toil of tramping about in search of suitable 
quarters. 

She made a number of unfortunate ventures, sampling 
experiences familiar enough to the middle-class bachelor 
woman of the present day, though somewhat staggering to 
the,well-bred mid- Victorian girl. The bankrupt householder, 
the drunken landlady, the undesirable male lodger, " and 
other fauna," formed part of the things that had to be taken 
and were taken most pluckily in the day's work. If S. J.-B. 
was instrumental in bringing ill-fortune on herself as was 
not infrequently the case she never sat down and howled, 
she never even thought of giving in : she simply put her 
shoulder to the wheel and went on with what she had been 
doing. And so it was now, under very difficult conditions, 
for, once and again, hopes were raised, hopes were dashed, 
and the weary struggle began afresh, with many bad head- 
aches and occasional sore throats to complicate matters. 

" Quite an experience of troubles," writes Mrs. Jex-Blake, 
" as much as if you had lived many years. I think no one 
could have acted more wisely than you have done " : and 
again, " I wish I were near, yet I don't think I could be a real 
help : it is not in my way." And the same might have been 
said by many other friends. Greater drawbacks were involved 
then than now in leaving one's own social groove. 

E 



66 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

" You have behaved very sensibly through the whole trial, 
which has not been a light one," says her Father. 
In her diary she writes, 

" Mummy says it is (my boarding-house troubles, she means) 
quite an experience of life. Truly not in these alone. Many, 1 
believe, never live as much, and through as much, as I have done 
already, in the whole course of life." 

Fortunately there was one house at least where she could 
always take refuge, and never failed to find herself a welcome 
guest, the house of Mr. Cordery at Hampstead. Her brother 
had married one of the daughters, Miss Henrietta Cordery, 
in June 1857, but the friendship was of much longer standing 
than that, and it would be difficult to exaggerate the comfort 
and support she derived from it throughout life. With Mr. 
James Cordery and his sisters Emma and Bertha (now 
Mrs. S. R. Gardiner) in particular she remained in intimate 
association, and always managed even after years of separa- 
tion to take up the threads again without a break. She 
was always at her best in that Hampstead home, full of 
gaiety and joie de vivre never afraid to be her real audacious 
young self. 

Immediately after the extract from the diary given above, 
she goes on light-heartedly : 

" I am so thoroughly happy in this way of life, hardly any other 
could suit me as well. So independent, yet so busy, so comfortable, 
yet not luxurious. Plenty, yet no superfluity. It is certainly very 
kind of the dear ' old folks ' to let me have it so, and very wise. I 
should never, at least at present, have settled at home. I should 
have been ever longing for independence and work, and now I 
have all I want and may yet do good. Having, as Maurice would 
say, found my centre, other things will, I trust, grow up around it. 
I trust most fervently I may yet be a real comfort to my precious 
Mother and dear kind Father. As last year I computed my ' worldly 
estate,' as quaint old Pepys, whose diary I am reading, would say ; 
I do it again. I have now for dress and private money 40 per year. 
Henceforth I shall have tutor's money as well. From my Father 
1 have, I think, as well as I can calculate, about ^50 a term for all 
expenses, besides all paid when at home, as well as travelling ex- 
penses with them or anywhere (except while at College) and riding, 
etc. So in actual money I have about ^200 a year and in money's 
worth another 100. Therefore I conclude about 300 a year to 



LIFE AT QUEEN'S COLLEGE 67 

be about the happy medium of wealth for a single woman. Dear 
generous old Father ! Few would, I think, give so much hi so good 
a way to their children. I believe as regards happiness and satis- 
faction never was money better, if never more kindly, spent. I 
must try to pay back the ' labour of love,' and ' requite my parents,' 
dear, dear old things ! Bless them both. 

I really believe as regards money I am honestly quite contented. 
I wish for no more. And as this is, they say, a somewhat remark- 
able fact, I specially note it down. Yet it sounds ludicrously 
tempting to reply to myself, Contented ! Shame on you if you were 
not, I think. Yet for actual pocket money, I am horribly pinched 
just now, only 93. gd. till next quarter, nearly four weeks hence." 

The reference to " tutor's money " is interesting. She had 
not been two months at College when she was asked to take 
the post of mathematical tutor. The suggestion gave her 
great pleasure, and she broached the subject to her parents 
when she next went home. Though startled, they were on 
the whole pleased at the honour done her, but things assumed 
a different aspect when her father realized the conditions on 
which the tutorship was to be held. 

The correspondence seems well worth quoting in extenso : 

" Jan. 28th. 

DEAREST, I have only this moment heard that you contemplate 
being paid for the tutorship. It would be quite beneath you, 
darling, and I cannot consent to it. Take the post as one of honour 
and usefulness, and I shall be glad, and you mil be no loser, be quite 
sure. But to be paid for the work would be to alter the thing com- 
pletely, and would lower you sadly in the eyes of almost everybody. 
Do not think about it, dearest, and you will rejoice greatly by and 
bye with all who love you best." 

A few days later he writes again : 

" MY DEAR SOPHY, and you are very dear to me you have been 
much in my thoughts, and I have been grieved to know that you 
have had so much real harass, and were so tried before you settled 
down in your present peaceful domicile. Now all is well, I trust, 
and you in peace and comfort, so, remembering the Appellant from 
Philip drunk to Philip sober, make the application, giving me the 
benefit of it, and bear with me, my own child, whilst I briefly tell 
you what I think and hope. I heartily admire your readiness to 
turn your talents to good account, and employ them in a way so 
clearly beneficial to others, but believe me that if you take money 



68 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

payment, you will make a sad mistake, debase your standing, and 
place yourself in a position that people in general, including many 
relations and friends, will never as long as you live understand other- 
wise than as greatly to your discredit. You would be considered 
mean and illiberal, tho' I am sure you are neither the one or the 
other accepting wages that belong to a class beneath you in social 
rank, and which (it would be said) you had no right, under any 
circumstances, to appropriate to yourself. ..." 

The reply to this came by return of post : 

" Feb. 3rd '59. 

MY OWN DARLING DADDY, 

I got your kind old letter this morning, for which, thanks. . . . 

Well, as to this Tutorship. I have thought about it, and about 
all the accompanying circumstances. If you will listen, I will try 
to tell you what I think. I believe I am particularly suited for 
teaching, my taste, and I fancy my talent, lies that way. I generally 
succeed pretty well in making my pupils understand what I under- 
stand myself and so far I suppose that proves my capability. Well, 
there are so many who make teaching their profession, who do not 
love it, and are not fond of it or fit for it, that I think anything 
that can be done to raise the standard of teaching and teachers, 
must be good. Well, this would be effectually done if everyone 
who loved the business (and was therefore necessarily to a degree 
fit for it) undertook it, and no others. I think this very College is 
doing much to raise the standard, and I fancy they are particularly 
anxious the authorities, I mean to get teachers of a somewhat 
superior rank in society (as generally considered) . Well, justly or not, 
I am, I believe, supposed to be of rather higher class than the gener- 
ality of teachers, and therefore specially eligible. I suppose I 
certainly have considerable talent for Mathematics, if for anything. 
It is the one thing I know best and love best. Then when the 
Mathematical Tutorship is vacant, surely I am right enough to 
be anxious to obtain it. I was thought capable, and chosen. 

Now remember, Father dear, I am not here taking the place from 
anyone else, though if I were doing so, being myself the best fitted, 
I do not think my conscience need be troubled, but this Tutorship 
has stood vacant for some months from sheer want of anyone capable 
to fill it. 

Well, the terms of the agreement are do this work, and receive 
this payment, the payment contingent entirely on the work. The 
conditions are, if the Tutor has four pupils, forming a college class, 
she receives 53. an hour. It is right and natural I think, I certainly 
do work equivalent to the payment, and have fairly earned it. Why 
should I not take it ? You as a man, did your work and received 



LIFE AT QUEEN'S COLLEGE 69 

your payment, and no one thought it any degradation, but a fair 
exchange. Why should the difference of my sex alter the laws of 
right and honour ? Tom is doing on a large scale what I do on a 
small one, I cannot recognize any fundamental difference in the 
matter. I cannot say ' I do not want this money, I have no use 
for it,' for in truth, tho' having an ample and generous allowance, 
I should have plenty of use for it. Then there is the honest, and 
I believe, perfectly justifiable pride of earning. Did you not feel 
this when you received your first salary ? Why should I be deprived 
of it ? Then again you offer to give me the money if I refuse to take 
it from the College. But this would be a wholly false position, 
to get credit for generosity in refusing what I yet receive. I could 
not do this. In that case I must say to the Dean, not ' I am willing 
to work without payment,' but ' My Father prefers that I should 
receive payment from him, not from the College,' and I think the 
Dean would think us both ridiculous, or at least foolish. 

If I wrote a book I should receive payment for that, and I presume 
even you would not object : why then now ? 

For mental work done in the school the reward was a prize which 
cost money, you thought this honourable, why should the reward 
of labour at College, being money, be dishonourable ? 

Hitherto I have had a class of only 3, and therefore I have not 
been officially entitled to this salary. The Dean wished to make 
some arrangement for my payment last term, but I said at once, 
' The money is not of much consequence to me I had rather, not 
having the official number, teach them as a friend and ex-officially/ 
and so I have done. Here I think I was right, I could afford to teach 
them gratis, and I did so. The Dean was gratified, the pupils 
obliged, and I was satisfied. So it was last term. But if this term 
I get the official number, I do not see any reason except pride for 
declining the payment. My pupils would pay the College all the 
same, why should not the College pay me ? I really do not see 
that I am doing anything either mean or dishonourable, and I hardly 
think you can think so either. I am sure the College authorities 
do not. I do not think the Dean would think the better of me 
for declining the money, which I should be glad to receive, on 
account of a scruple of pride. Do you honestly, Father, think any 
lady lowered by the mere act of receiving money ? Did you think 
the less of Mrs. Teed because you paid her ? Would you have 
thought better of her for refusing payment ? I am sure you would 
not. You are too much of a gentleman to attach importance to 
money. 

Of course the question of right or wrong, honour or dishonour, 
is the point. This once settled, people's opinion is worth nothing. 
I should be glad that my friends had the sense to see clearly and 



70 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

rightly in the matter, if they have not, I regret it for their own 
sakes, not for mine. 

Of course I am speaking of indifferent people, not of you or my 
Mother. I care very much that you should think me right. 

But even taking this lower view of opinion I do not believe 
that many for whom I have any regard or esteem, would ultimately 
think the worse of me for accepting well-earned wages. If I took 
the post, and, even without accepting a salary, neglected my duty, 
or did it not to the utmost of my power, I should be far more con- 
temptible. 

Mary Jane Evans, I know, for one, and she is one of the proudest 
families of our relations, thinks me right. Miss Wodehouse, whose 
family is older and better than mine, not only says I am right, but 
showed she agreed with my opinion by her actions. She sees no 
meanness in earning, but in those that think it mean. When 
accepting Maurice's school, she said to him, most nobly, I think, 
' If you think it better that I should work as a paid mistress, I will 
take any salary you please ; if not, I am willing to do the work 
freely and for nothing.' I think this more noble-minded than any 
proud refusal of money could have been. 

Well, darling Father, I have written you a very long letter, but 
I wished to tell you honestly all I thought, and I trust you don't 
think my epistle too long. . . . 

Your loving child, 

SOPHY." 

" 4th Feb. 1859. 

DEAREST SOPHY, 

Your letter has given me unmixed pleasure. . . . 

About the tutorship, you write very ably, but your logic and 
illustrations are not sound, as I hope to show you. I am sure you 
are fit for, as you are fond of, teaching, and the desire to raise the 
standard both of teaching and teachers is good, but your receiving 
or not receiving wages for the work, can neither help or hinder the 
matter. I agree to all you say in favour of working, it is very 
honourable, very right, and worthy of all praise, but what I object 
to is your taking money for it. It is beneath you, and you will 
be far happier to decline it, and let it flow into its proper channels, 
to fructify widely and do real good. 

The question is, as you say, one of right and wrong. In my 
deliberate judgment it is wrong, in your position to receive pay for 
what you do, to say nothing of the extent to which it would damage 
you. The cases you cite, darling, are not to the point. I will 
take each of them in the order you put them and then judge for 
yourself. I never received a salary of any kind in my life. I was 







/nnn a. drnu.-uu} tii dialka vy^Sl.^J. (.{''r4b /A.. 7. 1#( : 2 



LIFE AT QUEEN'S COLLEGE 71 

of a liberal profession a particularly honourable branch of it 
and (chiefly) lived by it. This was ' right ' beyond all doubt. T. W. 
is doing the same sort of thing. He feels bound as a man, with 
ability to do so, to support his wife and family, and his position 
is a high one, which can only be filled by a first-class man of character, 
and yielding him nearer two than one thousand a year. The third 
case Mrs. Teed's like the others has no analogy whatever to my 
dear Sophy's Mrs. Teed had no means. She went out in early 
life as a governess, to earn an honourable livelihood. She did earn 
it well and her talents, by God's blessing, led to her after success, 
enabling her to lay by something to support herself and sister in 
their later years. 

How entirely different is my darling's case. You want for nothing, 
and know that (humanly speaking) you will want for nothing. If 
you married tomorrow to my liking and I don't believe you would 
ever marry otherwise I should give you a good fortune. What 
temptation is there for your doing that which, at best, will be mis- 
understood to your prejudice ? I should say at all events wait a 
bit till you are a little older, and can form a riper judgment. My 
feeling is strong that you being a paid teacher would certainly 
damage you, in what precise degree nobody can say. Do the work 
it is a good work and I rejoice in it, but don't put a penny into 
your purse for doing it. Let the gold go in some other direction. 
This will give you a greater and more lasting satisfaction than you 
could derive from any money payment. 

Your loving Father, 

T. JEX-BLAKE." 

" Feb. 5th '59. 
DEAR DADDY, 

Thanks for your letter. I do not know whether all my 
reasoning was logical, probably not but I do not think that your 
arguments respecting the relative position of (at least) Tom and 
myself, are much better than ' distinctions without differences.' 
Refine it away as you may, Tom's position and mine are consider- 
ably analogous, though very unequal. As far as I can trace the 
foundation of your asserted difference it is first his being a ' man,' 
which difference, as I said before, I cannot recognize as radical, 
secondly, that his position can only be filled by ' a first-class man,' 
and I think, allowing, of course, for very great disparity of know- 
ledge, acquirements and requirements, the comparison holds, for it 
is not easy, as has been proved by the length of time the office has 
been vacant, to fill this Tutorship properly. I should say it is the 
one the College finds hardest to fill, and therefore it is (in its degree) 
as creditable a thing to hold as the mastership. 



72 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Then I cannot think that you mean to urge the superior lucrative- 
ness of his post as any argument, for the principle must be identical 
in receiving one penny or ' nearer two than one thousand a year/ 
Then I cannot say that I want for nothing, I do want the money, 
and am quite satisfied to earn it, quite knowing that my allowance 
is enough. I do not really see that I am in any degree wrong, if I 
am it is unconsciously and honestly. 

Well, I don't think it is of much use to argue any more I have 
told you honestly what I think. . . . Thank you anyhow for listening 
to me patiently and answering me. I do not like to vex you after 
all this you have been and are very good to me. You ask me to 
wait a little while and consider. I have considered well, and I do 
not believe any further thought would alter my opinion. However 
I will promise you for this term only (not ceding the principle) not 
to take any fees, but if they come (which I do not yet know) to 
return them as a free gift to the College. If at the end of this term 
I still hold my opinion, I trust you not to oppose my determination 
again. Remember and understand, Daddy, I do promise this 
simply and only because you wish it, and not because in the least 
degree my mind is one whit altered on the point. I trust you to 
meet me half way, and not be in any degree grieved if I resume 
my intention next term. 

Goodbye darling, 

Ever your loving child, 

SOPHY. 

" Saturday night. Feb. sth 1859. 
DEAREST, 

. . . Tom's being a man makes all the difference, he has just 
taken the plain path of duty. I am very pleased with the spirit in 
which you write, darling, but I must be sincere, which 1 should not 
be if I told you that I had the shadow of a doubt that you ought 
not to be a paid teacher. . . . 

Ever, dearest, 

Your affect. Father, 

T. JEX-BLAKE." 

So closes this delightful correspondence. It was not to 
be supposed that she should have no regrets. In her diary 
she says : 

" Feb. i3th. . . . Like a fool I have consented to give up the 
fees for this term only though I am miserably poor. I am sorry. 
It was foolish. It only defers the struggle." 

The Norfolk cousins were not a little impressed by the new 
life S. J.-B. was making for herself, though it was not to be 



LIFE AT QUEEN'S COLLEGE 73 

expected that they should all take so enlightened a view of 
it as Miss Evans did. . 

" You seem," writes Cousin Ellie, " to be spending rather a jolly 
time of it, but still it seems to me rather queer that a lot of girls 
should walk about London when and where they please. I don't 
think you would come to any harm, but I am sure there are many 
that would." 

And Sarah with whom " one does not connect the idea 
of angel," 

" What glorious fun a girl might have if inclined, but you are 
as steady as a rock. No fear of my dear old man doing anything 
giddy. My dearest treasure, Goodnight." 

We gather from subsequent correspondence that the frivolity 
of this letter brought down a very severe reprimand from its 
recipient. 

Elinor was the first to pay a visit to the unknown world, 
and she writes a long account of it to the eager Sarah : 

" When I first saw her that evening, I thought she did not look 
so well, but since then I think the contrary She is much thinner, 
but in such good spirits, and so happy. I think -she quite likes 
eveiyone to know that she has been made mathematical tutor, for 
it is considered a great honour." 

S. J.-B. would fain have seen more of these delightful 
cousins, but their father held strict views as to the conditions 
under which well-born girls might visit London. 

" As to Ellie and Sarah," writes Mrs. J ex-Blake in one of the 
severe moods that had become so rare, " instead of being hurt they 
do not accede to all you ask, you might well be proud of their warm 
love. You have taken yourself out of your natural position, and 
you cannot understand the need for their conforming to the pro- 
prieties their Father so naturally and properly expects. Good- 
looking girls do not needlessly go about London without chaperons. 
Happily for them, their Father's wish is sufficient to guide them. 
There is a respect and duty to the position, however weak and 
inferior you may judge a Parent to be. 1 Well, darling, God bless 
and comfort you." 

Yet, judged by present-day standards, S. J.-B. would not 
have been considered deficient in the spirit of compromise. 

1 The reference is not to S. J.-B's own parents. 



74 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Her letters to her Father on the subject of tutor's fees is 
evidence enough on that score, and those letters are in no 
way at variance with her whole attitude. 

" A triumph as to life ! " she records in her diary. " Last Monday 
told Mummy of my not going to the Opera without telling her, but 
proclaimed my intention in the future. No interdiction. So I 
talked a little about it to make all my ground sure, and coming 
back on Tuesday found them going to Macbeth, Friday, and yesterday 
told Mummy as a matter of course. She acquiesced if not consented, 
and was glad we had so nice a party and hoped I shall not go often, 
so entirely removing all interdiction. . . . 

Well, as to the Theatre ! I believe I must confess myself dis- 
appointed. Charles Kean as Macbeth did not satisfy me. Mrs. 
C. Kean very good (I suppose) as Lady Macbeth. Yet not real, 
as Shakespeare surely should be. After the murder of Duncan was 
perhaps the grandest, most awful, most real. . . . The scene where 
Macduff learns his loss more real than most. The fighting at the 
end ludicrous. ... I thought there would be decent fencing." 

A few months later she went (with Miss Wodehouse) to a 
ritualistic church, and was moved to hot indignation. 

" How can this man wear a priestly robe in the Church, and 
subscribe to her 6th and aoth most scriptural articles ? Well, 
indeed, might we pray for the state of the Church Militant, when 
within her walls are such teachers. 

Yet was I right in not staying the sacrament because this sermon 
so stirred my indignation ? ' The unworthiness of ministers hinders 
not the effect of the Sacrament.' Perhaps I was wrong. Yet I 
could not have stayed in a peaceful or holy mind. 

To the law and to the testimony ! How precious is such un- 
answerable decree ! so final a court of appeal ! " 

A note is inserted in the margin, (" This May 1859. Sic 
transit! Feb. II, 1865 !). 

Meanwhile her certificate examination was drawing near, 
and mathematics absorbed most of her thoughts. On July 1st 
she writes : 

" Certificate examination nearly 4 hours. Out of 23 problems did 
20 J. So I trust I am pretty safe. I did get rather frightened as 
the time drew on, but really have worked hard and I trust won. 
Sent a telegram, ' Success ' to Mother, though the declaration is 
not yet made. 

July 28th. My certificate won triumphantly and marked, ' with 
credit '." 



LIFE AT QUEEN'S COLLEGE 75 

Of course she was working too hard. 

" I have a great deal of work in College," she confesses some time 
later. I take 8 classes, English Literature, English History, 
Mental and Moral Philosophy, Theology, Church History, Algebra, 
Geometry, and German Conversation ; and have 7 pupils. I am 
afraid it is too much altogether." 

And what about the ordinary traditional preoccupations 
and vanities of a young girl's life in the midst of these manifold 
interests and claims ? what about thoughts of dress, of 
personal appearance, of love and marriage ? Well, obviously 
there was little room left for any of these. S. J.-B. was 
under the impression that she cared a good deal about dress, 
and she would not have been flattered if anyone had expressed 
a different opinion. As a matter of fact she never had 
time to give the subject much more than a passing thought, 
and the poor little remnant of an allowance that remained 
when more pressing claims and numerous little charities 
had been met, was barely sufficient to pay for the work 
of an ordinary seamstress. The adaptable coat and skirt, 
and the endless variety of cheap ready-made dress had 
not then come to the aid of the educated working-girl, and 
S. J.-B. did not realize the difficulty of the problem she had 
to tackle. 

" I should like to see your muslin at 33. 6d. before I got one," writes 
honest EUie. " You know you are the last person in the world I 
should copy in dress, or who I would trust to get one for me, for 
it is the only thing almost you know nothing about, and you have 
very peculiar, and, I think, generally bad taste." 

The letter may have been written in a moment of irritation 
about something else, or indeed about this very subject of 
dress, for young folks are sensitive as to the appearance of 
their valued friends ; but it certainly contained more than a 
germ of truth. Fortunately youth and a radiant personality 
cover a multitude of shortcomings in this respect, and con- 
temporary correspondence often points to the extent to which 
the Almighty had " favoured " S. J.-B. " in person as well 
as in mind." In this connection there is an interesting letter 
of this period from an old schoolfellow, the daughter of a 
former schoolmistress. After a graphic account of a lecture 



76 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

by Thackeray, at which the writer had the good fortune to 
be present, she says : 

" In face Thackeray is the image of whom, do you think ? 
Guess. Someone you know, of yourself. Yes, indeed, of you, 
Sophy Blake. Mama and I were both struck, almost startled, by 
the resemblance." 

It happened by a curious coincidence some years later that 
Laurence was taking S. J.-B.'s portrait not very long after he 
had taken Thackeray's, and he expressed himself as greatly 
struck by the similarity of the lines in the two faces. S. J.-B.'s 
magnificent, speaking brown eyes, however, were hers alone. 
" If they were taken out and laid on a plate," said a forcible 
young friend, " they would still be beautiful ! " 

As regards love and marriage, one can only say that, for 
a girl in the middle of the last century she thought of them 
surprisingly little. She speaks occasionally of her own 
marriage as if it were as much a matter of course as her 
coming of age, and, after enjoying some pleasant boy-and- 
girl intercourse with an unknown " H." at the house of her 
cousins, she describes him as " the sort of man I may pro- 
bably marry in the end." Visiting a newly-married girl 
cousin, she frankly admits the charm of the comradeship, 
for indeed, as a friend said of her (with more truth than 
elegance of diction) a few years later than the point we have 
reached : " You have taken on you a hard, hard vocation 
from your youngest days, and yet it is scarcely so hard for 
anyone in the world to stand alone." 

In any case S. J.-B. went straight on her course, like many 
of the finest girls of our own day, without giving any thought 
to cross currents that might alter the course of her life. And 
indeed her daily life was absorbing enough. It is scarcely 
surprising if, among her many interests, her religious life was 
somewhat smothered for the time, or that, at least she 
thought so. 

" Mrs. Thornton called my doing what I had done ' noble '. 
Yes, if for His sake, but, alas, much more altogether for my own. 
Yet my loving the work is no disqualification for doing it for Him. 
I trust I do do good a little. Surely honest intellectual help is some- 



LIFE AT QUEEN'S COLLEGE 77 

"thing, if of lower class. ... I have thought I cannot take more 
work, Sunday School, etc., but what I do is good in its degree ; if 
done in His name, surely He will accept it." 

More and more, as she looked back on her own school life 
from the vantage-ground of a year at Queen's College, she 
felt how much the education of girls might be improved. 
On the last night of the year she writes : 

" In this year my idea of work in the cause of education has 
developed itself into that of a resident College of the Holy Trinity. 
Heaven knows if ever to be carried out. If good, yes, doubtless, 
if not, God will raise up better. Little ' religious ' as I fear I am, 
I do feel this thoroughly. . . . 

' And may the New Year cherish 
All the hopes that now are bright.' 

Such a happy loving Goodnight to and from Daddy and Mummy. 
"Very happy I am tonight. 

' And once more ere thou perish, 
Old Year, Good night ! Good night ! ' " 



CHAPTER VII 
FRIENDSHIP 

THE great remain children to the last, and in this respect 
S. J.-B. was essentially one of the great. To the end of her 
life, for those who knew her well, she could be a delightful 
child. But it was about the time we are considering the age 
of 20 to 21 'that she may be said to have become a woman, 
or, more truly, to have put on her manhood. She was too 
busy at the time to describe or analyze in her diary the change 
that was taking place " Oh," she says, " the little space of 
time and paper ! The mighty space of events ' unheard ' ! " 
she was in no way self-conscious about it ; but there are 
indications, like straws on the surface of the water, that 
show in what direction the current was setting. One sees 
that she was beginning to look at life freshly and at first 
hand, that the old traditional dogmatism was falling away 
from her views of religion, of social questions, of the relation 
between the sexes. To be sure this old husk was being 
replaced by the even more acrid dogmatism of youth ; but 
in that very acridity one feels the promise of growth, of the 
ripe wisdom of later years. 

As far back as March 1859 one finds the following signi- 
ficant passage : 

" Had a long argument with Miss Wodehouse today. Two points 
chiefly, i. Are evil deeds, though always pernicious to the doer, 
sometimes beneficial to mankind ? I affirming : she denying. 
2. Is it our first duty to seek our own salvation ? She denying. 

I cannot tell why I am so unable to argue with her. She seems 
to get me into a maze. Yet I think she argues honestly. I some- 



FRIENDSHIP 79 

times shrink from ' sacred ' subjects with her, yet she considers all 
equally sacred. 

' What is truth ' indeed ? Yet am I not somewhat like ' jesting 
Pilate ' who ' would not stay for an answer ' ? " 

" What is truth ? " one finds her asking again and again, 
and she at least had one grand qualification for the search, 
the habit of treating truth with respect even in its humblest 
fragments. 

Her Father, of course, was uneasy about her. 

" / should like to see you much," he writes, " but I feel that Sunday 
would be a heavy day for you here (as I don't frequent popish mass 
houses or the like), so that if you could run down here on Monday 
evening. ..." 

And again : 

" When I think of the (at best) half teaching you have, but that 
I confide in our gracious covenant head, I should tremble for you 
when I am gone. I have no doubt at all that Maurice is a most 
amiable man, but I believe that to this hour he has never come 
clear out of Unitarianism, and therefore does not see distinctly, 
nor, of course, teach scripturally, any one of those fundamental 
Christian truths (all connected together) original sin, Christ's vicari- 
ous work atoning for sin and fulfiling the law, justification by faith, 
and salvation by grace. Read, darling, ..." 

The following " passage of arms " with a Norfolk cousin, 
a man some years older than herself, is interesting in this 
connection : 

" Hastings, March '12/60. 

MY DEAR SOPHY, 

I left Brighton on Friday with something of a heavy heart. 
I saw I had grieved you where I had really no intention of doing so : 
that was painful to me and I must regret it. I express to you my 
strong regrets. But oh 1 tenthousandfold deeper was the sad con- 
viction forced upon me, that the advance you have made, shall I 
vex you if I say honestly and openly, Homewards, since I last saw 
you was very great. I believe you are as yet unconscious of your 
own tendency. I told you so at Lyng. But in honesty I must tell 
you, my dear Sophy, I tremble for you. It is such awfully slippery 
ground. It is such a pleasant accommodation of religion to our 
fallen nature. It so feeds our impulsiveness and fortifies our natural 
religionism. 

Will you forgive me if, with a cousin's, I hope more than that. 



So SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

anxious love I beseech you to ' consider your ways,' and bring your 
soul before God in this matter. Pray don't starve your soul on gilded 
husks while bread lies at your feet in your Father's house. 

I know more than one amiable creature who began as you have done, 
and has landed in Rome. . . . 

Dear Sophy, don't trust your head, much less your heart, much 
less any fallen man or imperfect church under the sun. Trust 
Jesus, Jesus only, Jesus wholly, Jesus exclusively. 

I trust this note will not make you wrath against me. ... Be 
sure of one thing, I banter no more, where feeling is evidently so 
deep. Henceforth I will try and pray fervently for your poor soul's 
conversion to God." 

" March I4th./6o. 
MY DEAR . . . 

If I do not say that you have written me a most ridiculous 
letter, it will be more from respect to its motive than its matter, 
or purport. I know people can work themselves up to any exagger- 
ated view of things, yet I can hardly believe that, if you have half 
the sense people say you have, you can on sober reconsideration 
really believe that there was the smallest ground for your tirade in 
my objection to hear a Church a house of God at least, spoken of 
and criticised as if it were a right thing to visit it as you would a 
theatre, and remain a looker-on while others were worshipping. 
' Seeking occasion against ' men was not the characteristic of the 
followers of the Jesus whose name you reiterate so often. I believe 
this was the whole feeling with which I spoke, exactly as I should 
have done if it had been a Baptist Meeting-house you were com- 
menting on, as I believe you would not have commented on a 
Baptist Meeting-house. 

You may, if you please, take my word for it that I am not going 
over to Rome, among whose partisans, however, I must say that I 
have never no, nor I think from any other denomination under 
the sun heard the same virulent abuse of those who have at least 
' one Lord,' if not ' one faith and one baptism,' that I have from 
the Puritan portion of our own Church : and I am sure no God 
and no Church was ever served by the one or the other. . . . 

What I have written is probably ill conceived and worse expressed. 
Excuse all such deficiencies. If I have myself fallen into the error 
I protest against, I need more than excuse forgiveness. I have 
not meant to be violent or uncourteous, but where I have felt strongly, 
I doubt not I have so spoken. 

For your cousinly care and affection I thank you heartily, as I 

am ever 

Your affectionate cousin, 



FRIENDSHIP 81 

And not only in matters of thought and principle was she 
developing ; she was beginning, too, to take her full share 
of responsibility as regards her fellow-creatures, entering into 
the meaning of brotherhood and citizenship. In addition to 
her work at Queen's College, she undertook to teach book- 
keeping gratuitously in connection with the Society for the 
Employment of Women, and had a class of children at Great 
Ormond Street. " I don't know how I should like her" 
said a candid critic, " but it is a pleasure to see anyone do 
anything so well as she does teach." 

Reference was made in a former chapter to her faculty for 
taking the side-issues of life too intensely. It may not be 
right to look on friendship as a side-issue though many of 
the world's workers are more or less forced so to regard it : 
in any case it is scarcely too much to say that even when 
one takes into account the endless philanthropic interests 
and activities of her later years friendship constituted for 
S. J.-B. the main work of life. If she had been paid for the 
sheer hard work she did simply as a friend, she would have 
been a very rich woman. She was always giving out, and 
from this time forward, she acted on the maxim, " Bis dat 
qui cito dat," If she arrived home, dead- tired, to find a letter 
asking immediate advice or help, she would answer the letter 
then and there and carry her answer to the post. If a friend 
was passing through London, or coming to spend a few hours 
with her, she would piece out a laborious journey by bus 
between her classes to meet that friend at some far-off station 
and make things easy for her. If a fellow-student or a 
teacher seemed on the point of breaking down, S. J.-B. 
would write three or four letters and call on half-a-dozen 
people to arrange for a holiday, and, if necessary, for a sub- 
stitute. " Then home very tired," she writes to her Mother 
after such an experience, " but very content to write this 
account to you." (As not infrequently happened, the invalid 
had found a refuge at 13 Sussex Square, and Mrs. Jex-Blake's 
kind heart was set on an extension of the holiday.) 

" I do not think I ever did so good a Lord's Day work in my life, 
if, that is, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath Day, to save life, 
not to kill, or let kill. I think I am very like a life-boat, value- 

F 



82 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

less in itself, yet useful enough in saving better things alive. That, 
indeed, its whole use and work." 

" I am sure all that driving and running about with me on Thursday 
made your eye and headache much worse," writes Cousin Sarah, 
" but you are such a dear kind old pet, would half kill yourself 
for anybody-" 

A former school friend writes at the same date : 

" I feel I ought not to trouble you, occupied as you are, but, 
whenever I have asked you for anything, your kindness and sympathy 
have been so readily given that I always think of you when I hear 
of any wants." 

"Mama sends her very best love," writes Miss M. J. Evans, "and 
Papa too. Oddly enough, both like you. How can they ? such 
a trumpery heartless girl ! " 

And one comes upon hundreds of tributes to the same effect. 

Sometimes S. J.-B.'s willing assistance was of a kind that 
involved no small labour and anxiety. If a friend was shy 
and gifted and poor, capable of producing work not yet 
recognized as marketable, S. J.-B. was always ready to be the 
middleman. She would write round to well-to-do friends 
enlisting their interest, do up samples of the work for inspec- 
tion, and (most serious of all !) undertake the responsibility of 
receiving the samples safe back again. " Put the responsi- 
bility on me," she used to say cheerily in after life, " my 
shoulders are broad enough " ; and there is no doubt she 
began to say this if not in so many words before the age 
of 20. People got into the way of trusting her to see a thing 
through, of assuming that it was her me'tier to be competent 
and to organize, of leaving to her the heavy end of the stick : 
and no doubt she enjoyed it all and learned much from it, 
though, when taken in addition to her regular work, it was 
terribly hard on her hasty temper and " irritable brain." 

" You must be very thankful to be a medium of helping 
so many," writes her Mother, " a great honour, I consider 
it, pleasure without alloy." But in the same letter she says, 
" Sad, sad weather for you to knock about in. Darling, 
don't risk your health." 

" I would not and could not speak " (after parting from you), 
writes Ellie. " I wish I was not such a silly fool, but I could not 



FRIENDSHIP 83 

help it and never can, if I have to leave you. ... I wonder if you 
have wished for me, if it was only to scold and fight with ; but what 
I wish most of all is that you would give up fighting. I would do 
anything for you if I could only make even a slight alteration. . . . 
I do with all my heart wish that you would try to keep in that 
temper of yours." 

Noble Ellie ! " Walks upright beside me, a companion, a 
guide, and gives me a hand." 

S. J.-B. rarely, if ever, expected her friends to do her the 
same kind of service ; but, if they became very dear, she did 
demand more or less unconsciously to herself a definite quid 
pro quo. In her big masterful way she would proceed to 
absorb their lives into her own ; to establish a subtle growing 
claim that was not easy to resist. She was splendidly loyal 
herself, and the loyalty she exacted in return, though at 
first glance an easier thing, involved more than she was in 
any degree aware of. As life went on people found it in- 
creasingly difficult to disagree with her : many simply ran 
away se sauvaient, as the French say ; and yet it was only 
when in the last resort one resisted her to the face for con- 
science sake in some matter very dear to her heart, that 
one really gauged the greatness of her nature. 

All this is taking us somewhat ahead of the early friendships 
at Queen's, but the frank recognition of this aspect of her 
character is essential to an adequate understanding of her 
life even in those days. A Queen's College friend who, in 
the most admirable and magnanimous spirit had accepted 
what might be reckoned a heavy obligation to S. J.-B. and 
her Father, writes as follows : 

" I wish to tell you (I could not before, but think it right now) 
that this . . . will be more of a personal advantage and enjoyment 
to me than anything else in the world. . . . 

With all my heart I rejoice to acknowledge an immense obligation 
to you for your love to me at all times and for this particular way 
of showing it, but not that sort of obligation which shall in any way 
affect my words and doings with you for the future." 

If friendships are to be weighed, not counted, S. J.-B. was, 
even at this period, fortunate in her possession of them. 
The Norfolk cousins, the Cordery family, Miss Wodehouse, 



84 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Miss Ada Benson, Miss Lucy Walker (afterwards Mrs. Unwin) 
who was her junior at Queen's, Miss Martha Heaton (Mrs. 
Hilhouse) a fellow teacher, are the names that occur to 
one most readily. And at this time there came into her 
life a friendship that was destined to make a deeper impres- 
sion on her than any of these, the deepest impression, in 
fact, of any in the whole of her life. 
This is how it began : 

" Jan. 26th. 1860. Just had a lesson in book-keeping from Miss 
[Octavia] Hill. Clever, pleasant girl, much nicer than I thought. 
Dined with me. What and how the deuce am I to pay her ? i is., 
I suppose. Dear old Patty Heaton ! How fond I am of her, and 
what wonderfully good friends we are ! " 

" Jan. 27th. I am sure I am a good companion for her (Miss 
Heaton) if only in amusing her. I think laughing does her a deal of 
good hearty fun. I rejoice in her exceedingly. And I hope for 
another sort of friend, or ally at least, in Miss Hill who came and 
taught me book-keeping yesterday evening. Nice, sensible, clever. 
Very good worker, I expect." 

In the published Life of Miss Octavia Hill, one cannot but 
observe how good this dawning friendship was for her also, how 
beneficient was the sunshine that it brought into her somewhat 
grey young life. On Feb. 5th, 1860, she writes to her sister : 



" I am always thinking of you both, and longing to have you 
home again that you may really know all our doings and lives. 
Mine lately you would assuredly consider rather of the dissipated 
kind. I have been giving some book-keeping lessons to Miss J.-B. 
She is a bright, spirited, brave, generous young lady, living alone, 
in true bachelor style. It took me three nights to teach her, and 
she begged me to come to dinner each time. She has a friend who 
is killing herself by hard work to support her younger sisters. I 
gather she would gladly give her friend help, for she speaks most 
sadly of the ' modern fallacy ' ' that the money must be earned.' 
She thinks it might be given when people are dear friends : she 
says they've given the most precious thing and what difference 
can a little money make ? " 1 

Almost from the first Miss Hill's letters to S. J.-B. took a 
serious tone. On March i8th she writes : 

" I wonder whether you will think me very impertinent if I say 
that I wonder you don't see that, in turning away from so many 

> Life of Octavia Hill. 



FRIENDSHIP 85 

important thoughts with a half joke, you are refusing God's means 
of grace as much as in staying away from ordained services. It 
is no good my writing sermons, however. ... I trust to live to see 
some one or some sorrow do for you what I cannot, to see such a 
peace as ' passeth all understanding ' come over you, to see the 
thankful, perfect dedication of all your powers to His service for 
His sake. . . . 

I too long for a nice quiet talk with you. I enjoy it so, and 
your magnificent energy does me such good." 

The talks were not always quiet. There are those still 
living who remember some animated discussions, for the 
two girls had stepped, as it were, out of totally different 
worlds. Here is a typical passage : 

S. J.-B. (hotly), " / never heard the game laws attacked ! " 
O. H. (calmly), " / never heard them defended ! " 

In the Easter holidays of that year both Miss Heaton and 
Miss Hill were guests at 13 Sussex Square, and the friendship 
between the latter and S. J.-B. was greatly deepened. 

" My dear loving strong child," writes S. J.-B. in her diary after 
this visit. " I do love and reverence her. . . . Had a loving solemn 
letter (not altogether pleasing to me) on my telling her we had had 
a ' row ' [at home]. Told her by return ' Hang you,' and bade her 
remember she was neither nurse nor parson. 

Dear, dear child, though. Mother calls it beautiful letter." 

It was so characteristic of S. J.-B. to show that letter to 
her Mother ! 

On April 29th Miss Octavia Hill writes again to her sister : 

" You dear old thing, I wish I had you here to give you a good 
rest and rousing, and refreshing. I am as merry as a grig. . . . Miss 
J.-B. and I are always doing things together great companions I 
am with her. You know she's teaching me Euclid. We went to 
see Holman Hunt's picture, . . ." 1 

And again we quote from S. J.-B.'s diary : 

" May 1 7th, Whitsunday. A most delicious day at Hurst with 
Ruth z and Octa. Went down together second-class by 6 train. . . . 
Told Octa about Wales, sitting in her room on the table, my heart 
beating like a hammer. That Carry wanted to go to Wales and I too, 
and most convenient about beginning of July, so . . . ' Put off my 

1 Life of Octavia Hill. 2 Miss Heaton. 



86 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

visit ? ' said Octa. ' No, I was going to say (slowly) if you wish 
to see anything of me, you must come too, I think, and not put off 
the mountains till heaven.' She sunk her head on my lap silently, 
raised it in tears, and then such a kiss ! " 

There is a happy letter about this Welsh tour : 

" Bettws-Y-Coed, 

July 26th/6o. 

DARLING MOTHER, 

We have decided rather in a hurry as there are to be no 
prizes, ... to give a treat to all, which, however, Mr. Jones specially 
stipulates is not to be a school treat. ... It is just coming off today. 
I ordered 60 Ibs. of dough and etcs. from Catherine Owen, rather 
less rich than last year (that is, fewer eggs and less butter). It 
makes 88 Ibs. altogether. But it was only settled on Monday, and 
as this is Thursday I am half afraid all may not know. But we have 
tried hard to send scouts everywhere. . . . 

Please tell me as early as possible where you will be each day of 
the week beginning Sunday, August the zath. Now don't let Tom 
just prevent your remembering or caring * to meet your little one. 
I do long to see you so. ... 

Weymouth St. July ^oth. All over, darling, now, and such a happy 
time without a single blot I never remember in my life. Every 
thing has been better than any anticipation of it. We have done 
everything we wanted to do. We have been everywhere and have 
had no mischance, no annoyance of any kind. Octa looks five 
years younger, and as bright as a sunbeam. And I am in so 
thoroughly happy a state of mind as hardly to know myself. I 
really almost think I should be good-tempered now. We came 
home by Llangollen on Saturday, 40 miles coach and 194 miles rail. 
Not a bad journey for one day. We went up that morning to your 
high mound. The view was glorious. I took poor old Ellen Jones 
some squills for her cough, but she looks very ill indeed. She sent so 
very much love to you, and wished she had something to send you. 

The treat came off excellently on Thursday. It was grand fun 
to see Octa playing with the children. At Hunt the Slipper once, 
she, pretending she had the shoe, held up her boot toe, saying, 
' See, here it is,' or something like it. Grace Owen, who was 
seeking, seized hold of it as quick as light, crying ' Let me have it 
then,' pulled away, and capsized Octa entirely amid roars of laughing. 
Octa sprang up and chased her round and round the field till she 
caught and tickled her. It was quite one of the bits of Jun of the 
evening. . . . The only contretemps was that poor little Hannah 



1 By the charm of his personality, she means, of course ; not by design. 



FRIENDSHIP 87 

fell down and sprained her arm. However, Miss Hill's surgical 
powers came in grandly, and I do not suppose Hannah is any the 
worse except for a few days inaction. Well, how strange it is to 
find this all over, and probably never to return. I cannot say I am 
glad our tour is over, for I do believe I was never so happy for so 
long in my whole life, but neither can I say I am sorry to see dear 
old London again, I am sure 1 could come back to no other place 
as a place with near so much pleasure. . . . 

Just fancy Octavia's energy, after that tremendous journey not 
reaching home till 10.30, she was off to Lincoln's Inn at 7 a.m. the 
next morning for the early communion, and went again, and I with 
her in the afternoon. Her Mother and sister were so delighted 
with her account of all her doings, and a glorious one she gave cer- 
tainly. I had tea with them last night. Goodbye, my darling, for* 
the present. Not so very long now, I trust, before we meet. 

Aug. ist. Although this has been in a ' Milan ' envelope all this 
time, I suppose I must now send it to Chamounix, as I foolishly 
forgot to post it yesterday. 

Today quite forgotten to order any dinner, so just bought some 
cheese and strawberries. 

Tell Carry John Davis has sent her a letter to complain of me, 
which was forwarded to me, and which I have answered. Goodbye 

darling. 

Yours lovingly, 

SOPH." 

In August, when S. J.-B. and Miss Heaton were abroad 
together, Miss Hill writes : 

" London feels strangely desolate, the lamps looked as they used 
to look, pitiless and unending as I walked home last night, and 
knew I could not go to you. ... I don't the least suppose you'll 
go to Florence or see my sisters, but, if you should, pray take off your 
' spikes ' and remember . . . how much they love England, and 
everyone who is a friend of ours. I look forward to bright long 
days in which I shall learn always more about you, and watch with 
unending and unfathomable love and sympathy your upward growth, 
and we may look back together on our lives, as I do often on my 
own, and wonder how I could know and see so little, and wonder 
more how, knowing so little, I should be led continually to deeper 
truth." 

Here, one would have said, was the beginning of an ideal 
friendship, and so it might have proved allowing, of course, 
for the necessary rubs between two such strong natures^- 
had the two girls been alone in the world. But each of the 



88 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

two belonged to a family that in different ways exacted a 
great deal from each of its members, and particularly of the 
member involved in the present friendship. It is doubtful 
whether even the two girls could have made a success of 
living together, for the diary refers occasionally to " cataracts 
and breaks," and on both sides there are letters of penitence 
for hot temper or " coldness and pride." Moreover, Miss Hill 
loved peace more than do most, and, dearly as she loved 
S. J.-B., she was almost bound in time to find her " more 
stimulating than quotidian," to quote a quaint phrase of 
Carlyle's. 

It is therefore with no small sinking of heart that one 
reads the following entry in S. J.-B.'s diary : 

" Sept. gth. Sunday [1860]. A plan on foot of my taking part 
of a house with the Hills and having Alice for a servant. That 
would be very jolly. But rents high about here, least 120." 

Certainly a similar sinking of heart took possession of Mr. 
and Mrs. Jex-Blake, and when they learned that the finding 
of a tenant for the drawing-room floor was an essential part 
of the scheme, it is not surprising that short of stopping their 
daughter's allowance which had been increased some time 
before they did everything in their power to discourage 
the arrangement. They were well aware that, here as every- 
where, the willing shoulders would take their full share of 
work and responsibility. The reader will be prepared for 
Mr. Jex- Blake's point of view : 

" DEAREST CHILD, 

You cannot surely mean to take a house and let lodgings in 
direct opposition to your dear Mother and me. It would be quite 
disgraceful and we never can consent to it. I will not believe, my 
dear child, with all our love for you, that you will so directly disobey 
us, or that Miss Hill, knowing our feelings on the subject, can be 
a party to it. 

When you spoke of the other house, you said a lawyer was to 
look over the lease, and take care of the Hills, and I firmly believed, 
till the last few days, that you were to hire rooms. I had no more 
idea of your becoming a lodging-house keeper than of your keeping 
a shop. You cannot suppose that I would assist Miss Hill in such 
an exceedingly blameable transaction. I would with real pleasure 
assist her in all possible ways . . . but no Father or Mother who 



FRIENDSHIP 89 

love their daughter, in your position, could consent to her joining 
in it. I trust, dearest child, you will give up all idea of such a thing, 
which, once done, you would repent as long as you lived." 

The response to this protest has not been preserved. On 
October i8th Miss Hill writes : 

" MY DARLING CHILD, 

Thanks for all the trouble that you are taking about the 
houses, I am quite ashamed it should all fall to your share. Is 
Harley Street house quite out of the question ? I received a letter 
from Mama, earnestly desiring that we should keep near the park ; 
she would not at all like Bentinck Street. Don't weary yourself 
with searching. I certainly will return on Thursday (probably 
much before) then we will look together again. ... If it would secure 
the Harley Street house by all means let us pay all the taxes what- 
ever they may be. I am writing in the dark. Goodbye, my own 
darling treasure. 

I am, 

Yours affectionately, 

OCTAVIA HILL. 
Mama has an affection now for Harley Street." 

Finally, the house 14 Nottingham Place was taken, and 
rather more than the customary number of difficulties had 
to be worked through in connection with it. In addition to 
this, illness broke out in the house, and there were several 
invalids to be nursed. 

The most forgiving of mothers writes after a visit to her 
daughter : 

" It is all your own choice and doubtless right, but it sometimes 
grieves me to think how many discomforts you have, and how many 
indulgences I have only it is not my doing that you have them 
not. I wish I did not think of you as worn and fagged. Do assure 
me that you go to bed as early as you can and get good rest." 

Fortunately youth and friendship make all things easy, or 
at least bearable. During S. J.-B.'s brief absence in December 
Miss Hill writes : 

" Oh, child, your letters are such a delight, but I miss you so 
dreadfully. I wander like a lost thing about the house and long 
for you intensely. Every place seems so desolate. Every witness 
of your thought and active care of and for me contrasted vividly 
with Z's odd procrastination till I almost felt unjust and unkind. 



90 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

And yet I ought to glory in your kindness and goodness, and in 
all that mighty and glorious energy that will help so many people in 
this sad world, if it is spared to us. Your room, the fire, the thought 
of all you had told me to provide for myself, fills my eyes with tears. 
I mean to spend a very quiet and happy Sunday." And again, 
later, " Do you know I get 'on very much more easily with strangers 
than I used, all of which I owe to you. It is a great satisfaction to 
me : it pleases one's friends to have their friends like one." 

Up to this point the friendship had been an almost un- 
qualified gain, but, little by little, Miss Hill began to feel the 
strain of dividing herself so to speak between her family, 
her comrade and her work. In May 1861 she was called 
away by the illness of her friend, Miss Harris, 1 and the change 
to an ideally peaceful life was just what she needed. Her 
own health had begun to suffer and she remained on at the 
Lakes for some months to gain strength. In her absence, 
S. J.-B. took on her own shoulders in great measure the 
responsibilities of householder. Hitherto her acquaintance 
with the other members of the Hill family had been slight, 
but a warm friendship now sprang up between her and the 
sister, Miranda, who often shared the meals made ready by the 
devoted Alice and served by her in her young mistress' room. 
Few young people in the first glow of a new friendship have 
sufficient tact, self-control and knowledge of life to avoid all 
risk of wounding their elders, and such tact would scarcely 
be possible in a nature like S. J.-B.'s. Little rubs and 
frictions increased, and no doubt Octavia was the confidante 
of all. In July she writes : 

" I hold myself prepared to come when it seems right, sure to be 
given strength to do my duty, but certainly not longing for any- 
thing that will bring me again into a world of contention. I can't 
bear to think how pained you would be if you could know the strength 
of this feeling, for I know you would feel it a failure of love. I tell 
you all this because I am sure you will feel it in my letters, because 
I am sure such a cloud hurts less when frankly confessed, because 
I am sure such a friendship as yours and mine need not fear it, 
remaining untouched and immoveable, based on what can neither 
change nor know fear. . . . All my life long this dread and misery 
about even the slightest contention or estrangement has taken the 
form of misery, continually saying in itself, ' I cannot bear it.' Since 

1 Life of Octavia Hill. 



FRIENDSHIP 91 

physical strength has left me so far this wretched dread has increased 
tenfold. . . . 

How delightfully kind and good you are to everybody. I can 
fancy I see you, brightly kind, good and energetic, going about 
among all the people, entertaining monitors, inviting my sisters to 
tea, giving club dinners, learning about examinations, arranging 
the play, talking to Miss Boucherett, delighting to plan work and 
holiday for them all. . . . When I have thought, as I often have, 
that it is probable that I may never have strength to work any more, 
you cannot think how I have clung to the thought of your ever 
ready and powerful help and care." 

Through all this tide of affection, one wonders whether 
S. J.-B. in any way realized the very genuine apprehension her 
friend felt about returning to the atmosphere of contention. 
The probability is that she did not realize it at all, or rather 
that she looked upon it as the expression of a transient 
mood caused by physical weakness. No doubt she made a 
generous resolve that " everything should be made easy for 
Octa " when she returned ; but she did not realize how 
great was the need for resolve. She never saw her own 
personality from the outside ; and of course hers was not the 
only " temperament " in the house. No member of the 
family could have been described as a mere cabbage. 

We all know how friction increases when the machinery is 
out of gear : differences of opinion grew : Mr. and Mrs. 
Jex-Blake protested against the imprudence of accepting a 
banker's reference only, in the case of a foreigner who was 
in terms for the rooms, and for once their daughter upheld 
their view with tenacity. Finally, though this not till 
October the state of strain became so great that Octavia 
was summoned home. 

One can sympathize profoundly with her in the difficult 
situation she was called upon to face. She knew by this 
time what the faults were on both sides, knew in particular 
that S. J.-B. was not a placid person ; began to guess perhaps 
that explosions of temper were as essential to that generous 
nature as the thunderstorm is to a stretch of summer days. 
Meanwhile everyone was counting on her to solve the difficulty 
with a wave of her wand : and here was she, never very robust, 
weary with a long journey, called away from a congenial 



92 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

holiday to the intimate association with a thousand and 
one petty cares in addition to the special crisis that had 
summoned her home. 

The extracts given above are a mere gleaning from many 
unpublished letters which bear witness to her devoted at- 
tachment to S. J.-B., but although her sympathy with her 
own mother was perhaps less fervent at this time than it 
afterwards became she had a strong sense of filial affec- 
tion and duty. Moreover she had her work in the world 
to do invaluable work we know it proved and she felt 
that she could only do it in an atmosphere of peace and 
quiet. 

Assuredly it was not an easy situation to face. Looking 
back upon the whole story after more than half-a-century, 
one cannot but wish that she had simply compelled S. J.-B. 
to realize the truth, that she found herself unable to live 
and do her work unless she could have the peace that her 
soul loved, that much as she had profited up to a certain 
point by the stimulating friendship of one so unlike herself 
the time had come when she found that friendship too stimu- 
lating under present conditions. Surely one fancies some 
arrangement might have been arrived at by which so mutually 
beneficial a friendship might have been continued. 

Miss Hill, however, decided otherwise. In the watches of 
that first night, after a long talk with her Mother (a talk 
that, in the nature of the case, can scarcely have emphasized 
S. J.-B.'s point of view), before she had even seen her friend, 
she resolved to forego even the semblance of an attempt to 
reconcile these conflicting claims. Something must go, and 
that something must not be the mother and sisters to whom 
she had devoted most of her ardent young life, the mother 
and sisters who depended on her wisdom and goodness more 
even than they knew. 

It was one thing to make the great resolve : it was quite 
another to explain it to the friend whose one conscious desire 
was to make Octa's life an easy one. 

So she set her face like a flint, and, for the first time in the 
course of their friendship, she refused to see S. J.-B.'s side of 
the question at all. Peace must be secured at all costs, and, 



FRIENDSHIP 93 

if peace was to be secured, this delightful exacting friendship 
must end. S. J.-B. might retain her rooms for the time as a 
matter of business 

But neither S. J.-B. nor her indignant Mother would listen 
to that. 

Well, then, let it all go. The time for half measures or 
so Miss Hill thought was over. All intercourse must cease. 
" The relentless knife must cut sheer through." 

How much the effort cost her we gather from the extent to 
which she overdid the part. She was at the end of her tether, 
so to speak, and acting, doubtless, on an instinct of sheer self- 
preservation, she would allow no discussion of any kind. She 
set her face so flintily that S. J.-B. was driven in uttermost 
bewilderment to the conclusion that the complete withdrawal 
was due to some extraordinary aberration on the part of 
her friend an aberration for which so noble a being could 
not be responsible, and which might therefore come to an 
end as suddenly as it had begun. A thousand times she had 
said to herself, " Everything will be right when Octavia 
comes ! " And now, behold, Octavia was here, and it was 
no Octavia. It was a fairy changeling to whom the beautiful 
past was a thing unknown. The rupture was so complete 
that it was no rupture. It was a nightmare, an inexplicable 
darkness at noonday, something so contrary to all known 
laws of nature that it could not last. This hope, this attitude 
of expectancy, was encouraged by the extraordinarily tender 
and appreciative letters which, at intervals for some years, 
broke through Miss Hill's reserve. In one of these letters, 
dated Nov. 5th, she writes : 

" Oh, Sophy, how splendidly you and your Mother did act those 
last days that now seem so far away. . . . When I see how deep your 
forethought was, so loving as to have remembered the very slightest 
things that might be the least trouble to us when you were no longer 
near to take care of us, one feels as if an angel had (may I not say 
still is taking) care of us." 

A generous letter indeed, but in the face of such letters 
was it any wonder that S. J.-B. failed as of old to grasp the 
-extent of the difficulty, that she refused to accept the situa- 
tion as final, that she lived on in hope, and often all but 



94 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

intolerable suspense ? " Did I want to learn constancy ? " 
she says. 

If the lesson was needed, most assuredly it was learned. 
Till the close of her life the friendship on her side remained 
unbroken, although she ceased in time to speak of it even to 
her most intimate friends ; in repeated wills she left the 
whole of her little property to Miss Hill, 1 and, although other 
friends came in time to fill the empty place although she 
even wrote playfully in her diary some twenty years later of 
her " fanciful faithfulness " until the eve of her last illness 
she would not extinguish the hope that " even in this life >r 
the friendship might be renewed. 

One might say more than this. From the time of the 
rupture, Octavia Hill became to S. J.-B. a pure ideal some- 
thing of what the subject of the In Memoriam was to the 
author of that wonderful threnody. 

In any case the whole history of the friendship was destined 
to lie on higher levels because Octavia Hill had felt bound 
to break it off. 

1 Until circumstances rendered Miss Hill independent of such aid. 



CHAPTER VIII 
A STEP BEYOND 

IT has never been customary among students of human 
nature to attach great importance to the outpourings of a 
romantic friendship, save in the rare cases where these have 
achieved consummate literary form. The religion of the 
adolescent, too, is a thing that we are apt to take a good deal 
for granted. In S. J.-B.'s case, however, the ideal the 
vision to which this brief friendship gave rise throws a 
light on potentialities of feeling and expression which we 
should otherwise never have had. The fact that so appar- 
ently transient a gleam should have given rise to a great 
and lasting inspiration lifts the passages that follow quite 
out of the category of the great mass of similar experiences. 

The effect of one personality upon another is a thing we 
can never predict and seldom explain. It is not a mere 
question of addition or even of multiplication. The process 
is a vital one which can never be mechanically reckoned out. 
We all see over and over again in life how the receiver may 
contribute as much as the giver the pupil no less than the 
teacher. When the word of God went forth from Sinai, we 
are told, each man heard it in the tongue in which he was born^ 

In any case that strange and new experience came with the 
force of a ferment to S. J.-B. " She was never the same 
again," says a lifelong friend, looking back on the whole 
history after more than fifty years : "it cut her life in 
two." But the cutting in two like the division of the 
primordial cell was the earnest, not of death, but of life on 
a larger scale. 



96 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

" My Mother's full glorious sympathy ! What could I do 
without that ? God bless her, my darling, mine for ever." 

So writes S. J.-B. in the first days of her trial. If anyone 
knew the meaning of the words, " as one whom his mother 
comforteth," it was she. 

And never did she need that comfort more than now. 
She left the house in Nottingham Place at once, but she 
gallantly finished her term at Queen's College and then went 
home to Brighton. " I must not get bitter and cynical," 
she says. " I don't think I shall. And yet the crash has 
been awful." 

As often before in lesser troubles she was thrown back on 
her own deep religious faith. 

" Bankrupt ? " she asks herself. " No, by God's grace, no ! No 
personal trouble, no trouble of any kind, can wreck a life in His 
charge. Still His, that the strong, the enduring thought. 

From this very threshold of pain, whatever be its present issue, 
shall go forth an earnest patient life, to continue Christ's faithful 
soldier and servant to my life's end. 

Yes, I, Christ's soldier ! Yes, earnestly, heartily, entirely, 
though speculatively this Christ I know not, though my mind asks 
in all uncertainty What and Who ? . . . 

Dogmas are one thing ; life is another. 

Doing is clear ; ' doing the will,' ' knowing the doctrine ' shall 
come later. Not believing though. I mean understanding, re- 
ceiving with reason and mind." 

So she prepared her. altar, " and put no fire under," but 
the flash came. 



"Dec. isth. Sunday. 11.45 p.m. Who could have believed 
what a happy holy evening has succeeded to all the pain, storm and 
whirlwind of the morning ? 

Dr. Smith's death. 1 The loss of Octavia's day, her visit of one 
hour ; the utter stupor of misery. Then, with all the pain, the 
perfect feeling of content and assurance of Rightness in things. 
Then this happy evening, lifting me altogether out of myself and my 
pain into the trials and struggles and efforts and interests of Lucy 
and Emily, and, thank God, the power of helping both. Now 
this calm perfect peace, which sends me to bed ' resting.' . . . Oh, 
God is most merciful, most bountiful. ' Like as a Father pitieth 
his children '." 

1 Dr. Southwood Smith, Miss Hill's grandfather. 



A STEP BEYOND 97 

"12 p.m. Sunday night. 

Don't chide me for writing late, Mother. I must speak to you. 
If I could give you an idea of the peaceful, happy evening I have 
had, sending me to bed with a heart full of love and joy and thank- 
fulness. No, nothing has changed in outer things. I have no 
other news. But perfect peace has come. I can hardly tell you 
how happy I am, Mother. 

I have had such a happy, holy evening with two or three of the 
girls. . . . And God seemed to give me such wonderful power to 
help them, and 1 believe He has helped them. And in all this I 
know not how, but I wake up at their departing ... to find that 
somehow God has rolled away my burden utterly. 

I had forgotten it and myself altogether, and now I can find 
neither. I can hardly believe in the pain and misery of the morning, 
it seems a dim, far-off memory. 

Is it not wonderful, Mother ? Goodnight, my own darling. 
Yours very very lovingly, 

SOPHY. 

I do not know when I could so fully and entirely say, ' I will lay 
me down in peace and sleep, for Thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell 
in safety." 

Follows an undated fragment, probably written to her 
Mother next morning : 

" passed other quiet wayfarers, just as heavily weighted. How 
gentle it ought to make one, to see how utterly ignorant one may 
be of sorrow at one's elbow, how one can only be generally tender 
to people, if one would escape striking down an already tottering 
neighbour because one does not and cannot know his needs. 

It is only God who sees which is the bruised reed, and cherishes 
that specially, or can do so. 

I am thinking how near 4 o'clock is coming. It may bring me a 
kiss and a word from my darling. I am sure tonight's post will at 
any rate. 

Well, dear, I have you always and forever, and with you only I 
could never be desolate. And I have her too, though she doesn't 
know it now. 

Yours very very lovingly, 

SOPH." 

" 4.30 p.m. Thanks, many, darling, for your loving little note. 
You will know before this that the cloud is not dispersing in the way 
you mean, that it has only more fully and certainly overspread 
the sky. Yet there is and will be more and more, please God, 
a light in it too." 

G 



98 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

" Dec. i6th 1861. 8.30 p.m. 

MY OWN DARLING MOTHER, 

Thanks so many for the loving little scrap of letter which I 
knew would come to comfort me. 

The sympathy is always delicious, but the active need for it is 
utterly gone. You will have got my lasu night's letter, so Mother 
\till not go to bed with a sad heart for her baby. 

Yesterday 1 was wondering how it should be possible that I 
should ever live out the next three days till I got home to you. Now 
every sort of trouble seems to have fled utterly away. I never 
knew before the meaning of the words, ' the peace that passeth 
understanding 

I every now and then wake up with a kind of start of wonder to 
find such a sunny smile of heart gladness all over my face. And 
people see it too. It would be very odd if they didn't when the 
whole world is changed to me. It is the most wonderful separation 
of the inner from the outer world that I ever knew. I suppose 
nothing is changed in the physical world, but everything seems for 
me bright and golden, as in my Welsh tour with Octavia (I can 
speak of it and her now with perfect quiet peace), as in those days 
at Hurst. 

Last night I thought it most glorious, but too delicious to last ; 
but it seems now the atmosphere of life, as if nothing can touch or 
shake it. . 

Mother, a grand solemn wonder comes with it all, whether it is 
that when we have actually and literally given up every will and 
wish to God, have rested utterly and entirely on Him with perfect 
trust whether then pain loses its power, and only blessing, even 
now, can come. 

... if so, what a glorious future one sees for all the sorrowful 
here, for all the tried and suffering. ' For all the wanderers the 
home is one '. The pain only till it has brought the bliss ; the All- 
loving Father that cannot wound but to heal. 

Now my spirit is so perfectly at rest, all my strength seems to have 
come back to me like Samson. I feel as if Edinbro' or anything 
else was nothing to me. ' He hath set my heart at liberty ', that 
is the very truth. Mother, how naturally in every depth of sorrow 
or joy one turns to those words about which verbally we quarrel, 
not really or deeply, Mother. 

Goodnight, my own Darling, 

Yours very lovingly, 

SOPH." 

From diary : 

" Dec. 1 6th Monday. ' For as soon as ever thou hast delivered 
thyself to God with thy whole heart, and seekest not this or that 



A STEP BEYOND 99 

for thine own pleasure or will, but fixest thyself wholly upon Him, 
thou shalt find thyself united and at peace.' 

THOMAS A KEMPIS." 

" Dec. 22nd. Sunday, 1 1 p.m. The last thread actually broken, 
the parting over. 

Left London on Thursday evening by the 8 p.m. . . . 

Well, it is all in hands that cannot err, speculative sceptic as 
I may be, practically my trust is as firm as the rock on which it rests. 
My Father doth do all things well, and even makes me feel it, 
even now. And surely, to take a lower ground, I have been an 
inapt pupil if the lessons of the last few months have not taught 
me the utter impossibility of calculating the possibilities of the 
future. 

Should I have believed from man or angel on Tuesday the first 
the events of Thursday the last of October ? 

But we don't want low ground. He is the rock, His work is 
perfect. 

And He will care for my child." 

Of course this mood of exaltation could not go on unbroken, 
except at the cost of sanity itself. Hours of reaction had 
to come. " We might have done anything together, we 
two!" 

" Dec. 2gth Sunday. Tonight the bitterness seemed doubled in 
finding ' my teachers removed out of my sight.' I just feeling my 
way to truth, saved by her from so much doubt and possible 
infidelity. Well, God will teach me, will He not, Himself, so 
Mother said. I cannot (or feel as if I could not : cannot is not a 
word for ' Christ's soldier and servant ', is it ?) put it all away. 
I seem so physically weak and rotten, so unable to exert will and force 
myself to be quiet. 

But I have found something to do. I behave infamously to the 
dear old man. Well ! I mean to throw my whole being into being 
a good child at home. I won't be rude and bad to him ! 

Now record this vow for a week, don't be superstitious, Jack ; 
say ' God helping me ' and go on, forget yourself. Just do this 
piece of work, and wait. 

So be it. 

What was the ' chief evil ' to which the suffering must be directed 
to be sufficient ? 

' Selfishness,' said I. 

Truly, Jack. And what is it but intolerable selfishness, this 
brooding over a ' bootless bene ', this expecting sympathy and all 
sorts of kindness and excuse from my Mother and the rest, and 



ioo SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

talking about nerves and fiddle-de-dees, instead of forgetting 
myself and seeing to my work and to ocher people. 

Well, God helping me, now for a new leaf of strength and resolve 
instead of whining self-pity." 

It was with this inspiration that she wrote to one of her 
pupils : 

" Dec. 3ist. 1861. 

DEAR LUCY, 

. . . My Modern History was all right, thank you, -I forgot 
you had it. By the bye, your handwriting seems to me to have 
' suffered an improvement ' I must congratulate you. 

I am very glad you think I have helped you, dear child, my 
life has been a very pleasant one in London, -its memory will be 
pleasanter still if it has been too not quite useless to some of the 
people who have helped to make it so. I could not easily count 
the people who have helped me, some directly, some merely 
' by living.' It is a glorious thing, is it not, to be a link in that 
chain of help which encircles the world, to pass on to another 
what one has given us, feeling how all our broken bits of help 
and gift are gathered up in the perfection of the Great Giver and 
' Father of Lights.' 

I do heartily hope that you will go back to Queen's just to take 
and hold your place in that chain. Only do quite resolutely take 
your part for the highest and noblest, remember ' the soldier and 
servant ', and remember how very far we are from helping when we 
acquiesce in any wrong doing, in any low standard of right and 
wrong, even by silence. 

I do not think it would be easy to over-estimate the importance 
of a high pure tone among the leading girls at such a place as 
Queen's, perhaps such as you and L. hardly know what a power 
lies in your hands, for the very life of the College, and mayn't 
we look higher than that, and say for our Master's work ? 

And after all that is the true and simple way of looking at it, 
for consequences we can't calculate, but ve always can know right 
from wrong, and the rest is not our affair. 

Well, dear child, God bless and guide you, that is the true help." 

And, finally, she writes in her diary : 

" Dec. 3ist. 1861. The last day of the year ! Now to ' take 
stock '. I have just finished, and balanced exactly my money matters 
(within a deficit of as. 8d. with which I left London). Now for the 
moral and historical. See the last volume for the beginning of the 
year. How well I remember the last day last year. Does she ? How 
we did and sorted accounts till the chimes, and then leant together 



A STEP BEYOND 101 

out of the window in our new house fresh with plans and hopes, 
saying so hopefully, 

' And may the New Year cherish 

All the hopes that now are bright.' 
And now truly almost, 

' For all my earthly hopes this (year) did kill.' 

It is almost dreadful to look back and see how this book opens 
with a jest. How full of joke and spirit all seems ! The ' deep 
waters ' have come this year as never before. But it is a strange 
wild comfort to find in myself so much capacity for suffering. I 
had always despised myself as a weak shallow nature, to leave 
others to suffer and escape with a laugh. . . . 

(Wrote one last letter to Frid 1 tonight for her birthday tomorrow. 
Weak ? I think not.) 

Well, now to ' take stock ' : 

The opening of the year, .bright, clear, hopeful. Octavia's visit 
to the north, but that no real break. Our delight in our new house, 
its quiet and peace. Some disappointment is not letting, but that 
very endurable. No bar to happiness. . . . 

Then the return of Frid and Florence. My unwilling acquaintance 
ripening gradually into love for Frid, called forth perhaps first by 
her great love for me. 

Then our glorious Whitsuntide at Hurst, Octa and I. The few 
days (Thursday to Tuesday) pure unmixed heart sunshine. Purer 
and deeper if possible than that of Wales. 

Then the strange double summons on May 21 St., she to Mary 
Harris, I to the O'Briens. Coming like a thunderbolt on our week, 
but accepted by both obediently and willingly. Together to London. 
Then my mission to Tufnell Park. The hurried tea, the night mail, 
the parting hand pressure as the train moved, ' in the sure and 
certain hope ' is it blasphemous so to use the words ? I think 
not. There was a glorious churchlike solemnity always on our love. 
Well ! then the five months' parting, hard it seemed then, but 
painless heaven to what came after. 

Perhaps I am not yet meant to see the ' why ' of all that followed. 
. . . We seemed so helpful heavenwards to each other. Never 
seemed our love truer, deeper, purer, I know though now that mine 
could be all three. 

Yet with all this wondering, I do and have felt most solemnly. 
Surely it is best. ' We shall see in Heaven why it could not be 
otherwise.' 

At least, Octavia, you have never had (in me at least) so true and 
deep and leal a friend as now, and yet quieter and so stronger. 
1 Miss Miranda Hill. 



102 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

And for her God have her in His holy keeping ! 

I feel some work has been done when I can say as deeply, truly 
as now that no earthly blessing could seem to me (except relating 
to my Mother) comparable to her restoration to me (for every feeling 
of hurt or wound or injury seems merged in deep earnest love 
' beyond words ') yet I am ready, and God helping me able to go 
through the world darkened and lightless as it seemed a few weeks 
ago and feel it yet my Father's own world, ' very good ' yet : 
ready in it manfully and cheerfully to take up my burden, and 
again and forever as ' Christ's faithful soldier and servant ' to fight 
manfully till my life's end so help me God ! " 



CHAPTER IX 
FIRST EXPERIENCE OF EDINBURGH 

IT is the great miracle of life that first glow and uplifting 
of the soul in touch with the Unseen. " The immediate 
consciousness of the religious man," said Hegel, " has in it an 
infinite worth, because an infinite content." For the moment 
it seems as if all the difficulties of life were swept away, as 
if nothing temporal could matter any more. But if the world 
at large is to be ennobled and spiritualised by these individual 
experiences, the inspiration has got to be worked out in 
" the commonplace clay with which the world provides us." 

And here comes in an all-important point, to which, on 
the whole, far too little significance has been attached. To 
some of those who have the vision, Fate gives a tractable, 
malleable lump of clay, limited in mass, fine in texture, 
ready to respond to the lightest touch of the potter : and 
so we get sweet and saintly characters whose lives will bear 
the minutest inspection such characters as Maurice and 
Eugenie de Gue'rin, or the wonderful family described in 
Le R/cit d'une Soeur. But there are some to whose lot a 
very different problem falls. The big and rough jobs of the 
world-spirit have to be tackled somehow. There are unwieldy 
masses of clay, full of grit and impurities, masses that do not 
seem to respond to the creative impulse at all. Rough 
handling, bold tunnelling may be required ; and if it be 
true, as it is that the first beauty of the spiritual vision 
seems degraded in any attempt at realization, how much 
more is this the case when the seer is baffled and thwarted 
at every turn by the sheer inertness and stupidity of the 



104 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

lump, so to speak, when he is forced to resort to almost brutal 
methods in order to get his idea expressed at all. 

God gives man the vision and the lump of clay ; and many 
a man who escapes the censure of his fellows gives back the 
two separately to God, like the talent wrapped in a napkin : 
some men are privileged to return a piece of work that all 
eyes can value in a trice : and some, " with aching hands 
,and bleeding feet " have merely blocked out a great con- 
ception, have half-unconsciously drafted the rough outline of 
one of the Almighty's big schemes, an outline on the details 
of which smaller souls will be abundantly occupied for 
generations to come. 

Before we judge of the finish of a man's life, before we 
judge of its correspondence with what he believes to be his 
inspiration, let us ask What was the extent of the problem 
it had to grapple with ? What was the mass and what the 
condition of the clay ? What, in a word, was the man's 
task! 

There must, of course, be some sort of affinity, some mesmeric 
attraction, even if this should seem to show itself in an actual 
distaste between the man and the task. So far as human 
stupidity makes this possible, we must believe that God 
Almighty chooses His man, and the work of the Almighty 
would be singularly limited in range if He chose for His 
purpose only those whose natural endowments are such as 
to make them an unqualified credit to any cause they may 
espouse. 

All this must be specially borne in mind in judging the 
subsequent life of S. J.-B. We are bound, of course, to ask 
how she worked out in life this beautiful vision of her adoles- 
cence bound to ask how she realized in practice the " infinite 
(potential) worth and content " of that first radiant conscious- 
ness ; but before we attempt to answer the question, we must 
take into full account the extent and the difficulty of the 
task that fell to her share, and we must give full weight to 
the natural attributes which were the tools placed at her 
disposal. 

It is clear that there was about her a doggedness, a high- 
handedness, a disregard of tradition, an actual if superficial 



FIRST EXPERIENCE OF EDINBURGH 105 

roughness, which are not common qualities among the highly- 
educated of either sex, and which were never admired in her 
own. On the other hand, the reader of the foregoing pages 
will no longer need to be told of her tenderness and sensitive- 
ness of a capacity for loving and for suffering only commen- 
surate with her power of inspiring love, of incurring suffering. 
In a sense she was a born fighter, but it is a very nice question 
how far she enjoyed a fight. Thousands of times throughout 
life she might truly have repeated the extract from her diary 
quoted on p. 46 : 

" This brought down an awful storm of wonder, reasoning, etc., 
till at length I got off to bed so tired." 

The diary continues after the extract quoted in the last 
chapter : 

" And now to turn to the outer facts of life. 

Here I am, my London College life over, with all its pleasures, 
all its cares, all its responsibilities, all its glorious delight at times. 

Ten terms have I kept, ten passed since the beginning of that 
second volume of mine ! How sorrowfully meagre seems the record. 
Yet ' the world could scarcely contain ' what might have been 
written. 

My rooms in Nottingham Place given up (first and second floors 
let to Vs.). The world before me. Alice only bound to me. My 
life in Scotland to begin whenever rested. Wants sufficient resolu- 
tion to make that ' when.' Yet I expect very needful. 

I suppose the shock to my whole being of the last three months 
could not be easily reckoned. Two months today since I left N.P. ! 

Again the burden has been lightened since my resolve (how in- 
adequately worked out !) of Sunday night. Not only Watch, but 
Work and wait ! . . . 

By-the-bye, Frid's lovely Christmas gift, Christ on the Cross. 
The Child Christ and verses (her's ?) 

' The love that brings salvation 

Shall at last prevail ! ' 
Amen." 

" My life in Scotland to begin whenever rested." 
It is not easy to say what induced S. J.-B. to seek 
farther education in Scotland, except that she was anxious 
to extend her experience in every possible way. A few 



io6 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

years later, thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Crudelius, Professor 
Masson, Miss Louisa Stevenson, and others, the University 
Classes for Women at Shandwick Place were successfully 
started, but in 1862 there is no reason to think women were 
better off in Edinburgh than in any other town of the same 
size. A report seems to have gone forth, however, of the 
superior advantages offered by some institution, and S. J.-B. 
went north accompanied by her faithful maid, Alice full 
of hope and ambition. On her last night at home, by an 
interesting coincidence, she heard a sermon that impressed 
her on the text : " They have no changes : therefore they 
fear not God." 

The link that bound her with the world on which she was 
entering was of the slightest. Mrs. Burn Murdoch (nee Miss 
Dora Monck Mason) was an old schoolfellow, a contemporary 
of Caroline Jex- Blake, and the traveller carried with her an 
introduction to Miss Margaret Orr, sister of Captain (now 
General) Orr who afterwards married one of the Norfolk 
cousins, Miss Henrietta Cubitt. In these acquaintanceships 
both of which were to ripen into lifelong friendships 
S. J.-B. was very fortunate ; but as far as the immediate 
object of the pilgrimage was concerned, she was destined to 
bitter disappointment. 

Here is her own account of her first lesson : 

" Then went in to the Arithmetic class. Found the first division 
doing Proportion ! And, oh, such teaching ! First question : 
' If cloth is bought for 2S. a yard, at what price must it be sold to 
gain 25 per cent ? ' . . . exhortation following in this style, ' Now 
say and exameen carefully ' (broad Scotch) ' I think ye'll find it 
need consideration, etc.' ' It's not quite a deerect question, etc., etc.* 
' Now what will be the third terrm ? ' ' Stand up the ladies who 
can answer. What, Miss McCreechie ! I think ye'll hardly tell me, 
but ye can try, etc., etc.' And, sure enough, long took this abstruse 
question to solve. 

And such a lesson ! No explaining, some scolding, some 
shouting, a good deal of cry and small wool. Then he came to me. 
' Can ye do proportion ? ' ' Yes (!) I want to do Algebra.' "Ay, 
but that '11 be Friday. But do ye know Fractions ? ' I intimated 
an idea that I did. He didn't seem at all to believe it, ' did I 
understand them ? ' I felt rather absurd and hypocritical, and 
again said I did rather decidedly. However not a bit would he 



FIRST EXPERIENCE OF EDINBURGH 107 

believe me, gave me (as a severe test, I suppose) J x $ to do and 
explain. Well, did it ! ' But why ? ' I am sure I shall always 
hereafter have pity on unfortunate examinees pounced upon. The 
whole thing seemed so absurd, I was so annoyed. it seemed so 
silly standing up by that imp of a Sandy with a slate, that I very 
nearly failed to give any rational explanation. However I did some- 
what, and he had rather grudgingly to grant, ' Ay, I see ye know it.' 
Then, when I asked him about the Algebra, it seemed he had none 
but quite beginners (don't I pity them ?) and ' it wasn't his subject ' ! 
in fact, clearly enough he didn't know as much as I did. Amazed 
at my astounding erudition, ' Where had I learned ? ' ' Oh, in 
England.' ' Ay ? ' (very surprised) ' the English gairls generally 
come very bad at Arithmetic, we've one just now doesn't know 
her tables.' I laughed out. ' Well, you mustn't take her for a 
specimen.' He seemed to think that the national average ! ' Ay, 
but most we've had are very bad at it,' very resolutely. He must 
be a good judge by the specimen I saw. Well, he kept hovering 
round me as a sort of strange animal, and told me how the girls 
changed every year, and how he went through from the First Rules 
to Decimals as the ne plus ultra." 

Clearly there was nothing to be gained here, so next morning 
she " explained and apologised " to the Principal, and found 
him " very nice and pleasant." Her first impulse was to go 
straight back to London (in fact arrangements were made 
for her to live with Miss Wodehouse and study at Bedford 
College) but in the end wiser counsels prevailed. That 
arithmetic class was not the high-water mark of Edinburgh 
achievement even as regarded the education of its women. 
S. J.-B. made the acquaintance of Miss Blyth, who introduced 
her to Mr. Begbie, Miss de Dreux and others, so she settled 
down to a varied course of work, living comfortably in lodgings 
with Alice to "do for her." To Mr. Begbie she expresses her 
gratitude over and over again. 

" Mathematics not much with S. In answer to Miss de Dreux 
told the truth. They so nice sensible and honest, teachers born, 
' without respect of persons '. Mr. Begbie glad to hear truth, 
promises me a better far tomorrow. Mr. Weisse a good teacher, 
right good. German less formidable than I expected." 

One gathers from the letters that she made an extra- 
ordinarily vivid impression on her teachers : several of them 
refused to take fees, and Mr. Begbie persisted in his refusal. 



io8 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

" Miss de Dreux said my coming and work had given her a 
fresh impetus and help forward. Isn't that nice ? " 

On the whole these first months in Edinburgh though she 
talks afterwards of their " grey pain," were perhaps the high- 
water mark of S. J.-B.'s life as regards sheer balance and 
beauty of living. She was having, it is true, no physical 
recreation, but, apart from that, her faculties were all called 
equally into play. She was working steadily and hard, 
chiefly at her beloved mathematics : her wider reading 
included Jane Eyre, Le Juif Errant and Aids to Faith : she 
was profoundly interested in religious problems and con- 
scientiously attended the churches of the best-known Edin- 
burgh ministers : she was happy in her friendships, and still 
more in the passing beauty of her relation to her Mother: above 
all, the flame of her religious life in which was almost merged 
at this time her devotion to Miss Octavia Hill was burning 
with a clearness that made it easy to ignore the little jars and 
frictions. Even politics were not crowded out. " Daddy is 
here," says Mrs. Jex-Blake in one of her letters, " and says, 
' Tell dearest Sophy I would not have the Times, which she 
makes such excellent use of, given up on any account.' " 

One cannot read the record of this period of her life without 
feeling that it was mainly here and now that her character 
was made, that it was the resolute determination with which 
she took to work and stuck to it as the remedy for intolerable 
heartache that enabled her in later years to bear the brunt 
of all she came through. 

It is interesting to hear what she herself has to say about 
the various elements in her life referred to above : 

" There never was such a book as Jane Eyre of its kind. Talk 
of ' finding ' that finds me through and through continually. How 
people dare speak ill of such a book, I suppose they simply can't 
understand it. Its grand steadfastness and earnestness and purity, 
is something glorious. I read and re-read it as I never could another 
novel, and how it helps one ! " 

Again : 

" Aids to Faith put into my trunk by that dear old Mother who 
in her weaker moment entertains an uncomfortable kind of desire 
to proselytize me, and yet can't be quite dissatisfied. 



FIRST EXPERIENCE OF EDINBURGH 109 

Immensely interested in Aids to Faith. Read Cook's Ideology 
and Subscription, Brown's ' Inspiration,' and am reading Hansel's 
' Miracles.' The last gives me a glimpse of light and clearness I 
never had before. As far as I have read (and remember Essays and 
Reviews, which I must get) I think this side has it. As to Ideology 
I don't understand it and don't like to take the whole account from 
the adverse side (though there seems great fairness and scholarlike 
equity). As to subscription, I think Cook has it, I never could 
heartily sympathize with the other position, though I know it is 
held by quite good and honest men. I suppose one real question 
might arise, Who is to determine the real sense of the Church ? 
For doubtless very grave doubts are found among equally good men. 

As to ' Inspiration,' though I like the Essay, I hold more with 
E. and R. a good deal. Most of all with Coleridge as quoted in 
Aids, ' what finds me ' is its own witness, but why impose upon 
me what is not, because bound in the same covers ? " 

One finds among her papers brief notes of sermons by 
Rainy, Candlish, Guthrie and Pulsford, of whom the last 
appealed to her most. 

" The prayers are what I can't manage in the Scottish kirk. 
' Other people's ' need too much effort to approve or disapprove 
to leave your spirit free to pray. I find more and more the value 
and rest of the Liturgy. . . . Saw Unitarian chapel. Shall I go ? 
Don't expect to be in near such real sympathy as with Church of 
England. Octa always said so. Bless her ! " 

For many reasons she was anxious to bring herself into 
line with the orthodox ; she accuses herself of being too 
ready for an argument with her Calvinistic friends (what 
earnest spirit is not too ready for an argument at her age ?) 
and at this time she read the Gospels carefully through 
" with a fresh mind," taking notes that might have a bearing 
on dogma. If it distressed her to arrive at an unorthodox 
conclusion, this was mainly because such a conclusion seemed 
to separate her from those she loved best. 

In the meantime she had made the acquaintance of Mr. 
Pulsford, and had called to have a talk with him about her 
difficulties. 

" Much helpful sympathy and no horror of my questionings (how 
helpful that is !) but not much direct word gain. I suppose it must 
be lived out. He clearly does hold the Trinity, yet not, I think, as 
some do. Certainly not the vicarious Atonement. He uses nearly 



no SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Maurice's words, ' To present humanity perfect to God.' (I think 
they are Maurice's.) He believes Christ the man to have been 
God, but at first in His manhood unconscious of His Godhead. This 
seems to me very questionable and not clear. However, as I said 
and he agreed thoroughly not being a question of spirit but of 
history, it is not vital to me now, and living and desiring to know, 
we shall know. 

He again spoke strongly of not talking to people who can't under- 
stand." 

The contrast of the next paragraph in the diary is irre- 
sistible : 

" A mouse caught at last. Odd, how it annoys me ! ' Shall I 
drown it, ma'am ? ' ' Oh, let it eat its cheese first ! ' How Octa'd 
laugh ! Faugh ! poor little thing, how it struggled for its life, 
and how my heart beat ! It was some courage to resolve it shouldn't 
suffer longer than need be." 

About her friends she has much to say as usual. On 
March 3 1st she writes to Cousin Ellie : 

" Now for friends. I think I really may put that word to Dora 
Burn Murdoch and Margaret Orr, short as the time seems in days 
since I have known them ; but then days sometimes go for weeks 
and they have both been so kind to me. ' I was a stranger and they 
took me in.' [Dora's] charity for others is something quite beautiful, 
her unconsciousness of other people's inferiority to her, her width 
of thought, and power of understanding those differing most widely 
from herself most admirable. You never hear her by any chance 
say a harsh thing, a spiteful thing or a narrow thing, neither do 
you ever hear a weak one." 

She speaks many times in her diary of the rest and refresh- 
ment derived from visits to Mrs. Burn Murdoch. But she 
was working too hard, and Mrs. Jex-Blake's letters at this 
time take on an even deeper note than usual of love, appreci- 
ation and solicitude. Varieties of note-paper were not great 
in those days, so S. J.-B. had possessed herself of a large 
quantity of common brown envelopes (similar to those used 
for the delivery of telegrams) in order that her Mother might 
see at a glance without putting on her spectacles ! whether 
the postman had brought the all-important thing. Many are 
Mrs. Jex-Blake's references to " the precious brown envelope," 
" the dear brown letters " ; and well might she prize them. 



FIRST EXPERIENCE OF EDINBURGH TII 

Indeed one does not know which to admire more, the pains- 
taking labour with which S. J.-B., at the end of a hard day's 
work, strove to keep her Mother informed of all she was 
thinking and doing and trying to do or the painstaking 
labour with which her Mother strove to understand and 
sympathize. She writes at great length about Jane Eyre, 
about the higher education of women, and she enters into 
her daughter's religious arguments with a largeness of soul 
that is simply uplifting : 

" I expect," she says, " I quoted in commas the very words you 
wrote about the Atonement. The rest was, of course, my able and 
learned commentary. I think I did take your words in your sense, 
though I couldn't help their expanding you will perhaps say, 
narrowing, in my view. He will guide us both into all truth." 

The following extracts give some idea how these beautiful 
letters go on : 

May 6th. " I don't think I ever had a letter from you that I 
did not enjoy and enter into sympathy with, because I never will 
open them till I can enjoy them. Sometimes one has come at dinner 
time with others when Mr. O. has been here, and he has said, 
' Why don't you open the brown letter ? I know it interests you.' 
I answer, ' Just because I can't fully enjoy it V 

May 7th. " You have a glorious field of usefulness before you. No 
one can guess to what extent you may be permitted to be useful to 
the generations to come. Plod on ; expect rough waves that seem 
ready to overwhelm your best energies, and almost quench life ; 
but One sitteth above the water floods Who will always bear you 
through." 

May 8th. " My heait's desire is that you should know the truth of 
God, whether it be what I believe or not, and that I should know 
it too." (Previously she had written, " I was thinking today how 
surely God would guide you into all truth, this text confirming 
the thought, ' If any man will do His will, he shall know of the 
doctrine whether it be of God.') 

I think my cup of blessing would be fuller than I could bear did 
we two fully agree on that which must be all-absorbing and by far 
the most interesting of subjects. Though C. and I essentially agree, 
we cannot communicate with each other our natures are so different. 
I don't think I do her justice Ox fully understand her." 

May gth. We do well to struggle against that weary poweiless 
feeling, because, given way to, it might overcome all power of energy. 



112 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

but I quite believe it is sometimes part of appointed discipline, and 
it is no use to quarrel with ourselves for it. Still I do incline to 
believe in your present case it proceeds from exhaustion of the 
nervous system, occasioned by a shock struggled against with all 
your power. You will be better when Dora is back, and you get 
real interchange of thought and loving sympathy. God bless her 
for giving it to my darling. Try not to allow yourself to think on 
getting up, ' How long will it be before I lie down to rest again ? ' 
Remember you desire to give yourself to service, though not so 
active just now, for others. Remember as a help how many bless 
you for having sped them on their way. Your want just now is 
someone to be helped and braced for usefulness." 

(" Never fail," writes Mr. Jex-Blake, " to tell me of any 
case you know of like that of the suffering governess ; it is 
blessed to receive in such cases, but doubly blessed to give.") 

May roth. " Own darling, you write me such charming long 
letters, you quite spoil me. ... I suppose your work in Edinburgh 
has been very intense while it lasted, and proportionately exhausting, 
and then you don't, as a schoolboy does, get any reaction the 
other way. You have no one to play with, no positive recreation. 
I always think the games and perpetual ' outings ' in public schools 
such a fine arrangement ; and then an Oxonian or Cantab, has his 
boat or his ride, My darling has positively nothing. Don't little 
one overwork herself : such concentration of thought as you give 
in one hour is very exhausting." 

May nth. " I fear it is impossible for me fully to appreciate your 
child, and, even had you done differently, I question whether she 
and I ever would have got at each other, but I quite believe in the 
noble-heartedness you speak of. I would with avidity seize any 
opening she offered, but I fear she will not make it. In the present 
distortion of vision, she is more likely to suppose I am inclined ta 
alienate you from her. Had your's been a common friendship, I 
should have thought it possible that ' Art might conceal too much,' 
but she knows you in spite of all your faults and independently of 
them, and surely the wine was a messenger of love. You dared 
not have sent it had you not been bound up in her." 

On a previous occasion Mrs. Jex-Blake had written on this 
subject : 

" How very remarkable and interesting is Mr. Pulsford's statement 
aboiit valued friends apparently lost for a time. I had no idea 
that your's was a case that ever occurred, I mean of increased love 
* a stronger, deeper, truer love : it is really very grand." " I 



FIRST EXPERIENCE OF EDINBURGH 113 

fancy I like ' Sorrow ' better than ' Fidelis,' x but the latter is 
wonderfully your picture. 7 can scarcely grasp it, though I wonder 
and admire." 

May 1 3th. " I have nearly finished Jane Eyre, and like much of 
it exceedingly. What I object to is the personal handling she 
allows . . . and, grand as her conduct is, she marries a man of very 
exceptionable conduct, and who to the last had a relish for 
swearing. ... I think she makes St. John very unfairly disagree- 
able, his icy coldness very unnatural. ..." 

May 1 5th. " Well, darling, you and I must wait to talk it out 
about Jane Eyre. I shall never be able to write it out. It appears 
to me you have built up a wall to knock down. 2 I don't at all ask 
a different code of morals for men and women. But I do wish a 
woman to be refined and pure, not because I am conventional, but 
because I think it essential to self-respect and dignity. ... I don't 
believe high-toned governesses fall in love with their employers. . . . 
I think it very cruel upon the race of governesses to put it into 
people's heads they are to fall in love. I always, since I took a 
district in 1836 felt the tenderest, most motherly pity for any mis- 
guided girl. ... I certainly never did or will read impure things 
in books or newspapers. I consider familiarity with impurity rubs 
the bloom off the plum, which never can be restored. Minds differ, 
some almost enjoy to read queer things. Impurity does not seem 
to me to find any response in you : you can come in contact and it 
runs off like quicksilver leaves no print. I don't think that is 
common." 

" A letter from Elinor. She talks of enjoying your letters so much. 
... I am very glad Plumptre has sent you a testimonial you like. 
I fully expected he would send (if asked) a very handsome one. 

The world has many kind hearts, has it not ? none like my 
own child." 

And again, talking of a sermon she had heard : 

" I thought of my precious child when he pictured a strong 
character with exceeding depth of tenderness and gentleness. " 

One understands more and more fully the fervour with 
which S. J.-B. was wont to say in her later years, " No one 
ever had such parents as mine ! " " How I wish you had 
known my mother ! " 

One naturally treats S. J.-B.'s religious life at this time as 
something apart from her questionings about dogma, for 

1 Poems by A. A. Procter. 2 The letter has not been preserved. 

H - 



114 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

indeed the two belonged to different categories of her being. 
The following is one of the few letters of this period that 
have been preserved : 



8 p.m. March lyth, 1862. 

" DARLING MOTHER, I know you care to hear all your child's 
thoughts and hopes and feelings, I know you will not condemn 
for conceit and egotism what might seem so to other people. 

I want to talk to you, I feel so sure you want to hear. I want 
to tell you what a glorious Strength and Power has come out of all 
the sharp pain, how I feel that I am a better person, a stronger 
and more real one, than I ever was before. . . . 

Some one says that it is ' not pain undergone but pain accepted ' 
that bears fruit an hundredfold. You know the acceptance has 
not been easy, you know sometimes the flints have cut my feet 
deep enough, but thank God for two things I never for any single 
moment lost the absolute certainty of Infinite Love and Wisdom 
' brooding over the face of the waters,' the certainty of my Father's 
arms around me, and secondly that no suffering or pain could 
shake the love that has never been half so strong, so real, so ideal, so 
unselfish as now. I doubt if I ever half knew what being a friend 
was before, I think I have earned the knowledge now some 
of it. 

And, Mother, about my work. I cannot tell you the strong 
exulting feeling that seems to set God's seal to my work, in that 
through all the personal agony I have held firm to that : at no moment, 
I believe, would I have purchased what I longed for most on earth 
at the price of that, that I have felt through all ' The light may 
be taken out of my life (and thank God how far that is from being 
so !) but the object never can ! ' Don't you know how the lines 
that reminded us of the oath upon our head, that bade us ' never 
again our loins untie, or let our torches waste cr die ' was the strong 
helpful thing through it all. 

And though I did believe in myself and thou ever didst believe 
in me, Mother ! yet so long as my work ' walked in silken shoon ' 
and lay side by side with the pleasantest life possible for me, there 
was a certain thought about fair weather sailing, a certain (not 
doubt, but) diffidence in looking on to the time of breakers, a 
feeling as of David, ' I have not proved them.' But now I feel that 
I have come to the proof, that my armour has not failed in the 
battle, something the sure happy confidence (farthest of all from 
presumption) ' I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth 
me.' You can't think how it ' heartened ' me (you know that nice 
old word ?) to find that truly as well as verbally my work does hold 
the first place. . . . 



FIRST EXPERIENCE OF EDINBURGH 115 

I am beginning to have hope, Mother ! If I only suffer enough 
and I don't believe mine will ever be a smooth or easy life I may 
yet be fit to be the head for which I am looking so earnestly. . . .' 

But all seems centred in the one thought, ' Lead Thou me on ! ' 
or rather, not ' me ' but ' us,' all the wanderers. 

Yours very lovingly, 

SOPH." 

Not that S. J.-B. was ever conventional even in her religion. 
Here is a characteristic extract from the diary of the same 
period : 

" You never have the common honesty, Jack, in this most private 
journal (they say hardly anyone has) to put down the thought if it 
crosses your mind ' Well, I think I am rather a fine fellow ' or its 
equivalent. Because it never comes ? Oh, dear your precious 
' humility ' ! I wish Miss W. could look into you : do you ? Not 
you, you humbug ! 

' Well, but,' (retorts S. J.-B. accused) ' I do work with a single 
purpose, I have tried very hard, and, am sure, succeeded somewhat 
in this hard battle of these months, what is the good of pretending 
to call myself names ? Did not Job ' maintain his integrity ' ? 

You coward ! You must skulk behind Job. Looks respectable, 
does it ? Say honestly ' I do try harder than some people do,' for 
in truth I believe that is all your conceit does amount to. 

I know from my heart I do recognize and reverence holiness and 
purity as far above mine as Snowden to a mole-hill. And is that 
conceit ? I don't believe it is. No, ' Not guilty, S. J-B.' Plead 
boldly, and don't give in for shamefacedness. And besides you 
have no right to deny His triumph ' Who giveth us the victory,' 
by fighting modest on the sham. You have won some victories. 
Thank God quietly, and pressing on to the things before. ' I press 
towards the mark.' God knows and you know there are enough 
to win. Oh, how far away lies doing even what is our ' duty to do.' 
But I don't know that the realest soundest life limits itself to calling 
itself ' miserable sinner.' Zacchaeus told Christ what he tried to 
do. He did not rebuke him as man does and say, ' No, believe 
yourself utterly vile (for the glory of your Maker ?) ' 

There, go to bed, S. J-B." 

A few days later she recurs as often to the broken 
friendship : 

" ... Well, I note markedly how, with all this light, all this 
growth, respecting the suffering (and I think all this would have 
brought a ' right judgement ' too) I do not swerve one iota from my 



n6 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

judgement of facts. I cannot conceive it one hairsbreadth more 
possible that any but a mental cloud can have worked in the way 
it has, that under any possible circumstances my child, with her 
glorious nature and heart, can have acted as her image has. . . . l 

But while I have at last manfully and honestly and cheerily 
faced the possibility of never seeing her again on earth while I 
believe my loins are girded for the way quite irrespective of any 
future fate regarding her and me while, having put my hand to 
the plough, God shall grant me grace never to look back even for 
her (who, God knows, is far enough before me) never to linger irreso- 
lute with thoughts that should and shall urge me to double speed, 
yet it is curious how the whole fashion of my life shapes itself with 
the arriere-pensee of being ready for her ' at midnight or cock-crowing 
or in the morning,' saving with the thought of her as well as 
myself, looking at every path as it opens to see that it is wide 
enough to tread together if she joins me ere its end, making the 
most of the working time now that a pause of rest may fall due 
whenever she comes to claim the ' moon.' 

And I think, could she see my thoughts, my plans, my work, my 
resolves, she would not have them otherwise." 



1 More than a year later Miss Hill wrote : " I wonder if it would be any 
comfort to you if you could know the infinite love the thought of you, 
specially of any pain of yours, calls up ... how passionately do I cling to 
a like trust in you that your pain may not be tenfold increased ... by 
any sense of desertion in spirit. . . . And yet, Sophy, this thought of me 
must fail you as time goes on, for you cannot see why I act as I do. . . My 
love will be ready for you when He who is teaching us both shall bring 
us together again." 



CHAPTER X 
GERMANY 

IT was perhaps well that an interesting new factor came 
into S. J.-B.'s life at this moment. Miss Elizabeth Garrett 
(afterwards Mrs. Garrett Anderson, M.D.) had made up her 
mind to be a doctor, and, in the teeth of many difficulties and 
much opposition, was striving to obtain the requisite educa- 
tion and prospect of examination. A great effort had been 
made to get the examinations of London University opened 
to women, but the resolution (brought forward by Mr. Grote) 
had been negatived by the casting vote of the chairman 
the vehement feeling shown by the opposition being, in the 
opinion of the proposer, quite out of proportion with the 
cogency of the arguments brought forward. 

Miss Garrett had been in correspondence with S. J.-B. for 
some time as to the nature of the prospects in Edinburgh, 
in case London University should fail, and after talking the 
matter over with Mr. Begbie and other friends, S. J.-B. urged 
her to " come and see." Small prevision had anyone con- 
cerned of all that they were to see in Edinburgh a few 
years later. 

" Miss Garrett and her strength ! " wrices S. J.-B. in her diary on 
May igth, " making me break the loth commandment. She doing 
Trigonometry, Optics, etc. Running where I crawl ! " 

And on the 2Oth : 

" Today Miss Garrett's business. Wrote about ' Commission.' 
Twice to [Royal] Circus with very sore feet. Mrs. Darts, friend of 
Lord Ardmillan. Lady Mouteith (Lord Advocate). Argyle. Hope she 
will come. It will be everything to have her to help a little if I can." 



n8 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

" May 2gth. E. G. coming tomorrow, sent her off a telegram this 
afternoon in case she might stay another day for the report I promised, 
and so lose tomorrow's appointment with Balfour, whom I saw 
today with that splendid man, Begbie, who went down last night 
and this morning with me, and is to arrange with Newbiggin tonight 
for an appointment for her. My sore foot quite lame and not helpful 
for this bustle. However I believe I shall have done a bit of real 
work for her, and, as I said to Begbie, if there are such people, ready 
to face such an ordeal let's help them in God's name. One great 
obstacle the (sometimes) ' faux air ' of consideration for ladies' 
delicacy. People don't seem to see how that is her affair. Besides 
she has faced it : it's a day too late." 

How familiar all this talk was to become some half dozen 
years later ! 

Miss Garrett remained in Edinburgh for a fortnight, and 
during that period the canvassing went on. Mr. Burn Mur- 
doch used to say that, when the two young women went 
about, interviewing great ladies and important citizens, 
considerable surprise was expressed that Miss Jex- Blake was 
not the applicant. She was so tall and high-spirited, with 
great flashing dark eyes, while the real heroine was small 
and almost pretty, and fair. 

Strangely enough, S. J.-B. was not at all fired at this time 
by Miss Garrett's example. She meant to be a teacher, 
and medicine as a profession did not tempt her in the least. 
She had her doubts even about the value to herself of a 
University degree in Arts (supposing it could be had !) 
although Miss Garrett and Miss Emily Davies were both 
anxious that she should be of their number. " Chiefly I 
want you to make up your mind to obtain the University 
degree," writes Miss Garrett. " You are one of the few who 
could do so pretty soon, and it would take most women a 
year and a half or two years to prepare for the Matriculation." 

In any case the opportunity did not arise. The following 
letter to Mrs. Burn Murdoch explains the situation : 

" June 2ist, 1862. 
DEAREST DORA, 

I do not know whether we are to look upon the result of the 
Physicians' meeting most as a defeat or as a triumph, the motion 
' to consider the question of admitting Miss Garrett ' was negatived 



GERMANY 119 

by 1 8 votes to 16, very disappointing as regards immediate results, 
but very much as a victory for the principle, just as at London 
University. You see they have not refused to admit, only post- 
poned the question indefinitely, so that, when time and opinion 
have been brought to bear, they can again entertain it without 
inconsistency. 

In the meantime the expedition to St. Andrews was very success- 
ful, Dr. Day and Principal Tulloch were both warmly favourable, 
and it seems quite probable that Miss Garrett would be admitted 
to the University there, only unfortunately you see there is no 
medical school there, and so it would be but half a solution to the 
difficulties as she couldn't get ' nice little subjects ' * there. . . . 

I have only just come to anchor after some 36 hours' incessant 
trotting about, etc., so I daresay my intellects are ' even weaker 
than usual ' as C. A. would say. 

I suppose I may now thank you again on paper for all your help, 
dear Dora. You can't cough me down so conveniently. You don't 
know how much you have helped me through. 

Yours affectly, 

S. L. J-'B. 

Previously to this decision, S. J.-B. had published sensible 
letters on the subject in The Scotsman. The Daily Review and 
other papers. She also drafted an amusing letter in reply to 
her own, supposed to have been written by one of the retro- 
gressive " unco guid." 

" Well, it was grand fun," she says in her diary, " and, if it had 
got in, might have played very well ; but the chief temptation 
was the immense fan it would be. E. G. and I both thought we 
could command our faces. Her sister opposed, but we agreed, 
' No harm. We don't sign to it, and it's what some might say ; 
and, if the Review puts it in, it's their look-out. It's so weak, it 
can't do harm that way. She said, ' Don't let me know about it.' 
I said she was very much like ' Tom, steal the apple, and I'll have 
half.' 

Well, we agreed to send it and no harm done. I went to bed. 
I wasn't quite content, yet I didn't see any exact wrong, and it 
was such fun ! . . . 

Then somehow those dear eyes fixed themselves on me and I felt 
their sad grieved look. I can't, I can't, they would grieve, 
' Oh, Sophy ! ' 

1 Talking of the difficulties in the way of Practical Anatomy, someone 
had suggested that Miss Garrett should get ' nice little subjects.' 



120 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

For a minute I went back, 'Nonsense, no harm,' then 
' Let all thy converse be sincere, 

Thy conscience as the noonday clear,' 
and those words ' righteous altogether ' rang in my ears. . . . 

I went out to the sitting-room and sat down to write, and my 
first words to E. G. were, ' Oh, I've annihilated the Review paper ; 
it's not righteous altogether.' She said instantly, ' No, I've been 
thinking in the night. I was going to advise you not to send it.' 
My darling would be glad. God bless her ! " 

" ' Let all thy converse be sincere ' : ' and righteous altogether '." 

A real fighting life lay before S. J.-B. a life in which she 
received and gave hard blows, and lost sight sometimes in 
the dust and turmoil as a fighter must of the right on the 
adversary's side ; but the words quoted above were the rock 
on which she built her achievement. One sees now that often 
when lawyers and other well-wishers thought her candid to the 
point of stupidity, she was simply determined that her converse 
should be sincere, simply striving to be righteous altogether. 

Her great desire for years had been to fit herself for the 
work of a teacher, to found or assist at the founding of a 
wonderful college and (as the very height of her ambition) 
to be perhaps herself the headmistress. As she had planned 
Sackermena of old, so now she drafted detailed schemes of 
work, organization, finance. Such schemes, however, have 
been so much more than realized by the work of others that 
it is useless to quote them. She took a keen interest in the 
school at Bettws-y-Coed, offered prizes, set delightful examina- 
tion papers in general knowledge, and wrote stimulating 
letters to some of the elder girls. Long before this she had 
written in her diary : 

" Read the account of the College in Ohio for both sexes. Well, 
' Be thou but fit for the wall, and thou shall not be left in the way.' 
I do trust some day to graduate there or elsewhere. But still the 
great thing is to be able ; the actual fact matters little." 

The reader will recall, too, the letter to her Mother : 

" I am beginning to have hope, Mother ! If I only suffer enough, 
and I don't believe mine will ever be a smooth or easy life, I may 
yet some day be fit to be the head for which I am looking so earnestly."' 



GERMANY 121 

Any girl in the present day who was fired with such enthus- 
iasm would have countless advisers ready and anxious to 
give the necessary guidance. How different things were in 
S. J.-B.'s girlhood may be gathered from the facts of her 
pilgrimage to Edinburgh and search for education there. 
She wanted now to go farther afield to study the state of 
women's education in France and Germany, and after some 
considerable hesitation her Mother supported her in this 
desire. To her father, however, the feminist point of view 
remained a sealed book " Truly to him," she says at this 
time, " my whole life is as the ' sight of dancers to him who 
heareth not the music,' " and many objections on his part 
had to be overcome. Germany was so far away, and France 
was peopled with Roman Catholics on the look-out to pervert 
Protestant girls. 

" While you are so young," writes Mrs. Jex-Blake, " there will be 
a fearful struggle to make Daddy bear your going abroad. We 
belong to a Society for Governesses to protect them when they go 
for the language, young women have been sorely tried by bad R.C.s 
to make them perverts or coirupt them. And he has heard so much 
of this that Germany would be less terrible to him than Paris." 

" Written to Mummy at length about Germany," she says. " Oh, 
the weary kind of languor that deprecates work and talk ! It seems 
almost too much to have to do what is so hard, and to have, too, 
to justify it to others." 

The letter to her Mother has been preserved : 

" May ist 1862. 

DARLING MOTHER, 

... I had hoped that Germany was an accepted fact, not 
only to you, but to my Father, as at his (or your ?) wish I took that 
before France, and at your's before America. 

I believe, my darling, that I am trying to look simply and earnestly 
at my life simply as an instrument for my work, and shaping the 
one to serve the other. 

I have long formed the conviction (which daily experience and 
the opinion of others strengthens) that best of all now for my object 
will be the devotion of years to the observation of other systems 
and the endeavour to glean everywhere materials for my future 
edifice. I believe that my work has come definitely before me as 
early as it did, with the express intention that I should make this 
use of years which later I could never recall. 



122 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

It seems to me the simplest verbal expression of the presenting 
our lives a holy sacrifice, as is our reasonable service, to say, 
God has, I believe, given me this work. I have certain qualifica- 
tions and' facilities for it. I will give up my life first to perfect 
those qualifications and then to use them as He shows me how. 
So now my whole intention and bent is to go anywhere in the world 
where, as it seems to me on sufficient grounds, I may expect to learn 
most foi my work, to learn what will make me myself a better 
scholar and to learn what will most help me to organize (if organiza- 
tion falls to my lot) a better system here in England. 

If I am myself to be the head, I will make myself as good a one, 
God helping me, as He has put in my nature the material to make, 
if I am to be a servant I will certainly be as thorough and complete 
a one as is in my utmost power. I do from the bottom of my heart 
pray God that on no failure may be written, ' Had I worked more 
earnestly, more wisely, more diligently, this had been avoided.' 

You know, Mother, the purpose of my life, you know the conse 
cration, as I trust, of every power to one aim, you have helped 
me nobly, gloriously to keep it in view, you have told me that 
' manfully to fight under His banner ' is more blessed than ' dreaming 
out life even on Mother's shoulder '. . . . 

Well, Mother, you know my object, you know my hope. Look 
for yourself and tell me if you see for its fulfilment any course to be 
adopted rather than the one which seems to me marked out. Look 
at the work and that alone. Look at my life merely as the instru- 
ment, see how it may best be turned to account, most solemnly 
it is my deepest desire to arrive at a true answer. 

What could I be doing that would as readily and as really forward 
my aim ? In what way could I as usefully devote my time and 
power ? 

I believe most earnestly that it is not to any one plan or scheme of 
my own that I cling, show me anything better for my work 
show me anything even that you yourself think as good for it (looking 
at it only) and I am willing, renouncing every present thought, to 
take the new into deep consideration, and trust to the guidance of 
the Light to show me which is my appointed path. 

But take the question by itself, satisfy yourself whether you 
think I have judged rightly, as at least I have striven to judge 
honestly, and, if you arrive at my own conclusion I think you will 
feel that that is the only important thing, that if we are enabled 
to ' perceive and know what things we ought to do ' we shall also 
surely be given ' power faithfully to fulfil the same.' 

As I have said often before, if you and my Father ever need me 
at home, ever even desire my presence there, I will relinquish 
for the time everything to that which I am sure God would have 



GERMANY 123 

me hold my highest and dearest duty, But I believe nothing else 
on earth must be suffered to come between me and my work, and, 
please God, nothing shall. 

I see ' my Father's business ' clearly before me, help me, Mother, 
wholly to consecrate my life as I would wish, to it. 

As to all questions of detail, I think, darling, you need not be 
disturbed or anxious. Acting rightly, I am quite sure I shall be 
always cared for far more than I deserve. I think you have, and 
may have entire confidence in my practical common sense, I 
think I have already shown that I am not very likely to get into 
difficulties. You have trusted me a great deal, Mother, have you 
had to repent it ? 

You may be sure that I shall strive my utmost to do wisely as 
well as rightly indeed the one cannot be without the other. I 
think, moreover, you will be almost certainly satisfied with my 
plans and arrangements, I am sure I have ' caution ' strongly 
developed. And, though it may seem more new to you, I am very 
unlikely to find in my new life as difficult circumstances as those 
in which I have already had to act. I think that you may have 
confidence that I know you trust me, and that I shall not fail your 
trust. I think you may believe that I shall know and think of your 
wishes. 

Then, as to any anxiety for myself. You have said much to me 
in the trials of the last months which I would ask you to repeat 
to yourself. You have told me to trust my darling in perfect faith 
to ' Him who keepeth Israel ' and whose love you tell me is deeper 
and truer than mine. Can you not trust me to Him too ? 

I think there were some circumstances which there are not here, 
which did not make it easier. 

And in truth, Mother, what is there to fear ? If God (as I believe) 
needs my life to do a work for Him, He will surely keep it safely 
till that work is accomplished. If He does not, wherefore should 
one live ? Could you regret for anyone you loved that they ' in 
youth should find their rest ' ? When one feels completely how 
each of us is a link in God's great chain, how individual life and 
care sink out of sight, as hardly worthy notice. How one feels the 
whole object and end of life to be that God's will should be done 
in us and by us in life and in death. 

And whether in one or the other matters so little. . . . 

You see, Mother, I have had very much lately to realise all this ; 
that time and distance, that all severance are things of time 
and shall be cast into the lake of fire. That now we have to do God's 
work, . . . that here we are not even to look for the fruition. . . . 

I have to cling very very earnestly now to principles, I cannot 
see for myself, my teachers are removed out of my sight, I can 



124 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

only cling to the belief which is above and beyond all that that 
very sight and those very teachers were but instruments of the 
great Guide, and that now without them, as before with them, 
' the Lord alone doth lead him.' As I said this morning, so it seems 
to me tonight the root and fountain of everything ' The Lord reigneth, 
let the earth rejoice.' 

Yours very lovingly, 

SOPH." 

It is not to be supposed nor desired that all her letters 
to her Mother were on such a plane. Doubtless the weary 
flesh and spirit found expression often enough. 

Of course that wonderful mother-heart never failed in 
sympathy, though naturally the Mother's mind did not 
know what the strain of a modern woman's life meant in those 
early days when circumstances were all unadapted to meet 
the new demand. " Little darling shall have all the rest 
I can help her to," she writes about this time, " for greatly 
does her troubled spirit need it." 

And for a few weeks S. J.-B. really settled down to a restful 
time at home. " I am just now chiefly living in the garden 
and stable in my waking life," she writes to Miss Lucy Walker, 
" but there is a sufficient portion not included in that." 

Meanwhile Miss de Dreux had recommended a family at 
Gottingen, who would be glad to have an English boarder, 
and S. J.-B. arranged to go to them. To the last moment 
before leaving home she was occupied in trying to persuade 
the mother of a sick friend to let the invalid accompany her, 
in the hope that change of air and scene might check the course 
of a mortal malady. One cannot be altogether sorry nor 
surprised that the mother refused. 

So S. J.-B. started alone on July 2ist, and crossed from 
London to Antwerp. " Delicious, cool and pleasant passage 
smooth and comfortable. Beds on deck in a kind of room 
knocked up under the ' bridge.' Quaint night, with 
crashing machinery, flashing lights, rough voices, altogether 
weird and quaint." 

The choice of adjectives is curious, as it was not till many 
years later that " weird " and " quaint " became the stock 
adjectives in the vocabulary of the young. 



GERMANY 125 

She spent the night at Cologne, and went on next day to 
Hanover and thence to Gottingen. She was pleased with 
her quarters, her hostess, and her reception. What the 
family thought of her is another question, to which the 
records furnish no answer ; for she was still feeling worn-out 
in body and mind, and nature simply insisted on a rest cure. 
She seems to have made little effort even to learn the language, 
much to the amazement of the elder daughter, who had enjoyed 
the advantage of a conscientious visit to England. So weary, 
indeed, was S. J.-B. that she actually chronicles the " great 
blessing " of being freed from Sundays for a while of having 
rest all days, and " Calvinism, separation, none." 

" How peacefully came over me today ' One sweetly solemn thought ' 
as they sat talking (I knew but a word or two) of someone found dead. 
How uncongenial A.P.'s remark, ' I find these so sudden deaths 
awful.' What she thought I don't know, but I could not but say, 
' Oh, no ! going home ? ' 

August 1 8th. Everybody going ' zu reisen,' Rhine, Harz, every- 
where. Ah, childte, if you would only come quickly, we could have 
such a tour ! Alps, Mont Blanc, Geneva, Venice, wherever you 
would ; in a few weeks it will be too late. Too late ! For that. 
But truly all is ' in the fulness of time/ and could we see and know, 
even our restless impatience would not hurry it. ... 

As to money, well enough. I really expect to clear 20 of my 
allowance this quarter. I have that and about i. 153. in hand for 
stamps, washing and wine to the end of the quarter, besides g for 
rent. How jealously I do watch it ! Really between my tour, my 
E.E.U., l and my distant college, I must look out that I don't turn 
into a miser in earnest ! I get such a trick of watching and scraping 
halfpence ! And yet I don't believe I should grudge them either 
if need were. 

And one must look to pence if one would do anything with 
pounds. 

Still, I believe of the two I have really more to look out against 
' nearness ' than extravagance. I was right enough when I told 
Frid (that poor little darling, I am sure her's are ' vicarious 
sufferings') 2 that she need never fear my spending Jd. I did not see 
my way to. 



1 Englishwoman's Educational Union, a society planned by S. J.-B., 
which should form a meeting ground for really qualified teachers, and also 
a means of registration. 

2 Miss Miranda Hill's loyalty and devotion to S. J.-B. never flagged. 



126 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

I expect, with my work, this is perhaps a fitness for it, a 
surety against a great danger. . . . 

" Today Lina and I reading English. Frau brought a young 
man out, and Lina shut up all books at once for the benefit of his 
remarks, I suppose. I, rather wiath, took up Rawlinson." 

During these weeks of comparative idleness, S. J.-B. was 
making enquiries as to a place where she could profitably study 
the position of the education of girls in Germany. Finally she 
applied for the post of English teacher in the Grand Ducal 
Institute at Mannheim. 

As the Institution had embarked on a policy of strict 
retrenchment and economy, this was refused, but she had 
quite made up her mind to become an inmate in some 
capacity (as an ordinary pupil if necessary) and finally she 
set out without announcing her intention, in a fashion that 
recalls an adventure in the life of Lucy Snow in Villette. 1 
The condensed account of this in her diary could scarcely be 
bettered : 

" Sept. 1 3th. Saturday. 2 Left Gottingen at 5 a.m. with pleasant 
gifts from the children, and the famous glass knife from Frau B. 

The morning cold, dank and misty, darker than mornings are 
here even yet, I think. As we came south, perceptible increase of 
heat, till, leaving a cold autumn at Gottingen, we found a hot summer 
at Frankfurt. Went to Pfalzer Hof , clean, cheap, and civil. Had 
a bedroom opening on a balcony, and very good night considering, 
though, as I lay down, the venture rose strongly before me, quite 
alone, without counsel, having come 200 miles to a place which 
had already refused me, with the slender chance of personal repre- 
sentation prevailing, uncertain, even if accepted, whether I could 
do the work, in fact feeling strongly ' not knowing whither I went ' 
yet trusting, like Abraham, I ' went forth '. So fell asleep, seeing 
all perplexities, yet laying my head very softly on the pillow, ' Oh, 
Lord, in Thee have I trusted : let me never be confounded ! ' 



1 Mrs. Jex-Blake writes about this time, " I feel such a real sympathy 
for the English teacher Lucy Snow it is quite a pity you haven't it 
with you I think your Institut and the Park and Ducal Palace tally 
very well with Villette. Fortunately you have no male tyrant like Monsieur 
Paul, do you remember Miss Lucie being locked into an attic, with 
beetles, a rat, and possibly a ghost : to learn in a few hours a part in 
a play ? " 

1 The account is really written some weeks later, as there was great 
delay in the arrival of the box in which she had packed her diary. 



GERMANY 127 

Well, I slept long, breakfasted deliriously in my room, dressed 
in black silk, etc., with no end of care, wrote a little note to Mother, 
almost to the beating of my own heart all the time. 

Frl. E. had promised to come at n. I waited till 12, then came 
Frl. H. and Frl. M. Walked with them to the Institut, was shown 
into the ' parloir ' and left. They fetched me again, walked 
round the square garden with its high convent walls * (oh, how I 
remember those white berries !) Then out came Frl. von Palaus with 
her fine port and clear good eyes, and round hat. I told her how I 
wanted to study German education, and wished so much to enter here. 

She asked ' mes conditions '. ' Moi, je n'en ai pas, Mile.' She 
would ' parler aux autres dames.' 

Marie M. was to show me the house. Then in Miss von Palaus' 
room : 

' Would I come again at four ? ' ' Certainly '. Then a series of 
warnings for my own comfort : ' Very simple here.' ' I most 
happy to hear it.' ' Very plain little room.' ' I am no sybarite.' 
' Mixed communions.' ' I only ask toleration for myself, and am 
most willing to give it.' ' But as to money ! ' I leave it entirely 
to them, any arrangement of theirs I agree to. Enfin I said I 
was sure to be more than content. I had no fears. 

' Would I stay and dine ? ' ' Very gladly.' ' Very plain food.' 
I was no epicure, and sure to be pleased. So the result was, in fine, 
that I have never dined anywhere else since, and find my prophecy 
well fulfilled. 

After dinner talked to the governesses ; they said how comfortable 
they were. I thought, ' I only wish I were in your shoes,' for I had 
only asked to come anyhow, as pupil or anything. Then Frl. von 
Gruben came from Frl. von Palaus : A teacher (a Frl. von Endert) 
was absent from illness for 6 months (was it not wonderful ?) would 
I take her place ? but (as the Institution was only just struggling 
straight again after its shocks) without salary ? ' Very gladly.' 
How my heart leaped, though I spoke very quietly. What a chance 
for saving, if not gaining, money, literally to earn my bread. Now 
I could hope for money for my E.E.U., for the /5O for Christmas 
763, perhaps for Bettws school, perhaps for a tour ! 

Well, again I saw Frl. von Palaus, her face had satisfied me 
from the first. ' Did I quite understand ? Was I willing to have 
no salary and no expense ? ' ' Very gladly.' 

So off I went at 4 p.m., gay as a lark. Settled my bill, got a cab, 
and by 5 p.m. (less than 24 hours from my arrival) was established 
in my little cell at the G.D.I., Mannheim ! ' au comble de mes 
voeux.' Thank God ! 

1 The building had originally been a monastery. 



128 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

And now I have been here nearly a month, already established 
as if for years, in full sunshine of content. 

At work again ! And, thank God, with such strength for it ! A 
new sap and strength in all my veins, my heart in songs of glad- 
ness. 

The heavy burden seems to have rolled away, the sting and 
bitterness quite gone ; strength and power returned to my hand, 
colour and brightness to my life. Again I understand ' the thrill, 
the leap, the gladness ' again the sunshine has broken over earth. 
Now I go up and down the long corridors, catching with my hand 
at a great beam, in ' superfluous energy ' again, (my darling !) a 
smile over my whole face as I think I will tell her of my life in this 
weird old monastery young bounding life all around I myself no 
longer ' going softly '. 

' Thank God ! Thank God ! ' I can say nothing else." 



CHAPTER XI 
LIFE AS A TEACHER AT MANNHEIM 

To her Mother she writes : 

" Sept. i5th, 1862. 
MY OWN DARLING, 

Though I must now be rather more economical of space (for 
I can send but J instead of \ oz) I cannot resist beginning a fresh 
letter to you, having but just posted my last, with one also to Daddy. 
I am afraid Mr. Bevan must be again disappointed to learn that 
there is still no kind of prospect of starvation for me, quite the 
contrary. 

. I will tell you our plans as far as I know them yet. We get up, 
as you know, at 5.30 a.m., breakfast at 6.30, begin work at 7. At 
10 we have bread handed round, then at one we dine, very well, I 
think. ... At 3 we teachers (!) have cups of coffee, and at 5 or 
6 some grapes before going out for a walk. At 6 tea (or perhaps 
at 7) and then at 8.30 a regular meat supper. So you see we are 
not so very badly off, indeed it seems to me to be something going 
all day almost ! . . . 

Mother, I can't lie down without telling you of the very beautiful, 
soothing influence one thing has (perhaps unexpectedly) over me. 
I mean the perfect lovingness and charity in which we all of such 
opposite faiths live together, and have just knelt and prayed together. 
There seems to me something so inexpressibly touching and happy 
in it, everyone seems so loving to the rest, so far from cavilling 
for ' words and names ' : each so absolutely free and all so far from 
seeking to proselytize. At meals we stand round the table, 
' Nous voulons prier, mesdemoiselles,' and in silence everyone 
together thanks God ' in his own tongue ', one marking only 
that some cross themselves silently and some do not. Then at 
night we kneel together, we have a fine loving German hymn, and 
a text for us all, words lovingly pronounced by our Roman Catholic 
head that yet every Presbyterian minister might say. There seems 

i 



130 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

to me something so inexpressibly soothing in this union, so far 
stronger than all differences. I can hardly tell you the rest and 
refreshment it is to me now, worn and weary as my spirit is. It 
struck me very much in its beauty tonight as Miss von Palaus 
pronounced, ' There is but one name given under heaven among 
men whereby we may be saved ', and we all received it on our knees, 
Protestants and Romanists, Unitarians and Trinitarians, each 
' in his own tongue.' Was it not beautiful how just that name 
bound us all together, Christians, seeking at least the spirit of 
Christ who loved us" all, our Master, that we might ' love one 
another '. . . . 

1 am charmed to learn the Scotch girl, Janet McDonald, has 
learned both Latin and Algebra, both wonderful acquirements 
here, and I look forward to perhaps doing some work with her, 
if she gets on well enough with other things. 

2 p.m. Tuesday. The politeness of these girls is really quite 
refreshing. Last night, going up to my room after dark, there 
were several girls at the candle-stand, and, when I asked for a candle, 
one of them lighted one, and, with a reveience and ' Permettez-moi, 
mademoiselle,' carried it the whole way upstairs for me in spite of 
my efforts to get hold of it, it being quite out of her way. . . . 
7 p.m. Well, Mother darling, I wonder if you can sympathize in 
my intense exaltation and delight at the for the first time in my 
life literally earning my bread, something like ' My First Penny ', 
you know. I have had my ' surveillance de musique ', but am 
longing quite childishly for the commencement of my special work, 
I see teaching all around, and am just wild to be at it. Can Mother 
understand and sympathize ? 

Thursday iSth. My letter at last. I have been several times 
to the post in hopes of it. ... Today I have had one lesson, 
and am just going to give another, delicious ! It's really Uke 
oats to a horse who has been kept a year on hay. Miss Garrett 
was right enough when she saic|, ' Get teaching ! ' I quite laugh 
at myself to feel how radiant I am with delight at being again in 
harness." 

To Miss Walker she writes : 

" Sept. 22nd. 1862. 

Mannheim. 
DEAR LUCY, 

You will, I think, already have heard from my Mother that I 
cannot now offer myself to accompany L. to Paris. I do not know 
if you are aware that three weeks ago I wrote to Mrs. B., urging her, 
as strongly as I knew how, to entrust L. to me for the winter, and 



LIFE AS A TEACHER AT MANNHEIM 131 

offering to take her to any part of Europe which was thought best. 
I believe, at Mrs. Z.'s entreaty, Mrs. B. did consult some medical 
man on the subject, but I am sorry to say they confirmed her 
resolution of ' keeping her under her own eye ' of course not under- 
standing, as you and I think we do, all the circumstances. 

I therefore got so decided a refusal that even I felt further entreaty 
to be useless, and, giving up the point, I entered at once into a six 
months' engagement as English Teacher at the Grand Ducal Insti- 
tution at Mannheim, where I have now been just a week, and there- 
fore, of course, no further change is now in my power as regards 
my own movements. . . . 

I am much pleased on the whole with the kind of tone I find 
between teachers and pupils, and with the general principles, which, 
if not the very highest, are yet greatly superior to what you find 
in most English boarding schools. 

By the bye, before I say Goodbye, I must tell you what horror 
my open window at night (even now) occasions the natives I Having 
violent headache some time back, an old servant assured me it was 
' the window ', and since I have been here I have bevn entertained 
with the account of a gentleman who went mad, as I understand, 
entirely from sleeping with an open window ! So now you see the 
fate before you as well as me I Besides that, the doctor here (more 
shame for him) assures me I shall get a fever 1 

Goodbye, dear Lucy. Remember me to the B.s when you write. 
Yours very sincerely, 

S. L. JEX-BLAKE." 

And again to her Mother : 

" Sept. soth. 1862. 
MY OWN DARLING, 

... It amuses me very much as a proof of how soon a habit 
is acquired (and also, I think, an evidence that it suits me very 
well indeed) to find that now, and indeed for a week past at least, 
I always wake of myself just at 5.30 a.m., usually just 5 or 10 
minutes before I am called. 1 I wasn't wrong about my power of 
adaptability, was I, Mother ? Indeed I thrive greatly on hours, 
fare and all other circumstances ; I have not been so strong for many 
months, indeed now it is just a year. What a strange, grey, 
weird year ! . . . 



1 She did not always find this quite so easy. On October i/th she 
writes in her diary ! " Being all but late this morning, it is decreed that 
for one week from this time S. J-B. rises every morning while the stroke 
of the half hour and minute hand are ' one and the same straight line. ' 

" Now, Resolution : " 

It is scarcely necessary to say that Resolution responded to the appeal. 



132 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

You see idleness and listlessness is about the worst thing possible 
(I was feeling that in Gottingen) : now my days are full, not only 
materially, but really, for it is the kind of employment that does 
fill and satisfy me. And, I suppose, next to idleness, the worst 
thing would be over mental fatigue. ... It is, too, another advan- 
tage, which anybody else can hardly appreciate, to have my day 
mapped out for me with military exactness, to find my work always 
ready before me, and quite definite and imperative, yet making 
no demand on my strength almost always pleasant and always 
changing. 

It would have been impossible to have planned a life suiting me 
personally more exactly to my finest need, and the glory is that 
at the same time it is part of my work, and serving it very really 
and materially. I don't suppose in that point of view either it would 
be possible to put my time to better advantage. . . . 

You see, Mother, how you get my sunny day-dreams now, as you 
used to get the weary ones. I don't know if everyone has words 
running all day long in their head as I have, it makes a glorious 
song sometimes silently enough, but running like a golden thread 
through daily work and labour, raising it all till ' the parapets of 
heaven with angels leaning ' come full in view. . . . Do you re- 
member George Herbert's delicious poem ? 

' My Joy I my Life ! my Crown ! 
My heart was meaning all the day 
Something it fain would say, 
And yet it runneth muttering up and down 
With only this, 
My Joy ! my Life ! my Crown I ' 

It is to me so exquisitely significant of the joy and peace that floods 
one's whole being, but does not very readily find words, except in 
those already familiar to it, like those Psalm utterances, or like 
sometimes fragments of our own dear Liturgy or hymns ; and I 
think that is perhaps one of the greatest uses and values of such 
things. In the deep struggle times, one of the things that helped 
me most of all was always those glorious words of consecration that 
reminded me of the cross on the brow ' In token that thou shalt not 
be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully 
to fight under His banner against the world, the flesh, and the devil, 
and to continue Christ's faithful Soldier and servant unto thy life's 
end ! ' And again, the Communion words about ' ourselves, our 
souls and bodies '. 

Oh, dear, how one does write on ! But I think it pleases Mother, 
and I'm sure it helps me. . . . 

I fancy my darling will be pleased to get a kiss from her little one 



LIFE AS A TEACHER AT MANNHEIM 133 

to welcome her in London, as she cannot see her knight at Shore- 
ditch ! dear old lady, would she could ! But, Mother, you would 
let Daddy go with you if you really wished for anyone ? I tell you, 
as I have told you a hundred times before, how gladly your child 
will stay at home altogether if ever Mother really wishes for and 
wants her there, or will come from anywhere at any moment as 
rapidly as trains can bring her, if only Mother wishes for her for 
any purpose or none." 

It is very unlikely that she gave those about her the impres- 
sion of being devote : that never was her way. The " spikes " 
Miss Octavia Hill referred to were probably in full evidence. 
In her diary she writes, 

" A talk with Miss E. and Miss H. about the sacraments, and 
' preparation '. Miss Gruben instanced with horror, ' In England 
a party the night before.' I said, ' The theatre, with all my heart.' 
Exclamations. ' If I could not take the Communion half an hour 
after leaving the theatre, I would never enter it.' Then found my- 
self in the disagreeable position of apparent Pharasaism. ' Wish 
I were so good, etc ! ' or hints like that. Yet surely, Octa ? If 
there is a time when we cannot kneel for the Communion, that time 
should be blotted out. ' Living to God ', how that blends and 
binds all life ! 

Today dear Mrs. Teed. God bless her ! Yes, surely, now she 
would not be hard on ' prayer for the dead '. Yet what a noble soul ! 
Ah, if she had lived, if I could have justified myself to her whom 
I so respected. But, as Dora says, she knows it all now ! Perhaps 
her spirit sees and sympathises with mine that looks with such love 
to her footsteps gone before. In life she would have disapproved 
of some things, now at least she will see motives. ' I believe in 
the communion of saints.' . . . 

Just been reading C. Bronte. Moved me almost to tears. What 
honour and blessing to have dried some of those tears, filled some 
void in that heart. And yet doubtless ' He has fixed it well '. At 
least she and I and a multitude that no man can number all form 
portions of the Hosts of the Lord. . . . And it is the work not our 
pleasure. The scattering is part of tbe benefit. 

Ah, the Land of the Leal ! The banishment past, the solitude, 
the tears, the struggle. In hoc signo. ' Tbe Lord shall wipe away 
all tears from off all faces '." 

At this time she was extraordinarily happy in her work. 

" How can people paint a teacher's life as always such a suffering 
one ! My room now quite a little Paradise. Frl. von Palaus up 



134 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

about it again this morning. . . . Now only some ivy and a tin pot 
wanted ! 

My Schematism [?] very light. Certainly they take a generously 
liberal view of ' earning my bread '. Well, at all events it shall be 
well earned, if not largely. I'm half afraid of myself now that I 
have the responsibility of 25 English pupils. I am really very 
anxious to get them on so well and so rapidly as to convince the 
world of the wisdom of having an English teacher ! " 

How thoroughly she succeeded in this aim may be gathered 
from the letter of one of her pupils written a few months 
later, 

" We now have an English mistress, Miss Blake, and she gives us 
so many things to do that I am already too fatigued to entertain 
me any longer with you : she is an inhabitant of your land, and, 
if all people are so diligent there, it is a wonder that you are not 
all philosophers." 

Her diary abounds with shrewd and genial criticisms of her 
fellow- teachers. Of one whom she rather disliked, she says : 

" Miss D. has greatly laughed herself into my good books, such 
a cheery simple merry laugh. I don't think anything very bad 
could hide under such a laugh at her age." 

And again, 

" That good Frl. von Palaus ! Well might I today liken her to a 
sunbeam ! How she lights up the very house, how bright burns 
her lamp, yet how simply ! " 

No wonder her letters were a joy to the Mother watching 
at home. 

" Your letter has cheered me and done me good," she writes on 
Christmas day, " taking away the clouds in a great measure, that 
would hang over a day that owed so much of its brightness to your 
dear presence ; but truly, as you say, we have a far truer unity and 
a sympathy which I fear might never have come but through trial 
and separation." 

Life was not all spent on the mountain heights, of course. 
Even at this time she had her ups and downs like other 
people. Here is one of the " downs " : 

" Who is sufficient for these things ? seems my whole cry today. 
I don't know why especially, but I seem so oppressed with a sense 
of the greatness, the weight of my work, and of my own miserable 



LIFE AS A TEACHER AT MANNHEIM 135 

insufficiency for it. Oh, so weak and stupid and unfit ! And it 
isn't humility, it's just truth. 

I'm horribly showy, always (voluntarily or not) deceiving people 
into a belief into talents I haven't. Then I've will enough and 
would work, but no health or strength for it. That's not your 
doing, S. J-B. ' Hath not the Potter ? ' 

Besides, you'll never be called upon to do what you can't. God 
will give you power or send another in your stead. . . . And ' who 
is sufficient ? ' ' My Grace is sufficient '. 

Yet I am thankful, too, for even this fit of despair or at least 
downheartedness, for I was fearing horribly, lest, my whole heart 
being bent on one hope and plan, I might be too far identifying 
my success with it, lesb I might be seeking to win something for my- 
self, not simply to see God's will done by me or without me. And 
from the bottom of my heart did go up, ' Lord, put me aside utterly 
if need be ! and here, perhaps, the answer." 

She did not always take her reactions so seriously : 

" Cold. Therefore rather cross and grumbling. Prowling about 
the corridors with shoulders nearly up to my ears, mind do. And 
I fool and sybarite enough to conjure up pictures of a certain dainty 
little room with blazing fire. ... ' Shame on ye, Gallants, wha ride 
not readily ! ' . . . Well, well, indeed it was not really a grumble, - 
only a John Bull growl. You don't think I really give in an inch 
for such nonsense ? 

No. Well, there, that '11 do. 

As well to grumble to my book as to poor small folk downstairs, 
who want bracing not enervating. 

Granted. But why either ? 

Oh, now you're infringing the liberty of the press ! I may write 
anything that wells up. 

There, there ! pax." 

This is one of the many dialogues between " The Infantine " 
and " The Estimable," as she called them. Greatly did her 
Mother appreciate the titles. 

A few weeks later, after some words of yearning for a 
" comprehending ear," a " sympathetic hand," she breaks 
off abruptly with, " Heigh ho ! Shut up Grumbles ! ' a 
cussin' and a swearin' like that,' as, long coz would say." 

Greater troubles were in store than those constituted by 
cold dark mornings. No mention is made in the prospectus 
given above of holidays, and Mrs. Jex-Blake in her letters 
complains much of the " No holiday " system. Apparently 



136 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

the boarders only went home for a few days at a time, and 
for months together S. J.-B. does not seem to have slept 
away from the Institut for a single night. It was no 
wonder if, under these conditions, teachers and pupils " got 
on each other's nerves," and among Frl. von Palaus' many 
qualifications was not that of being a strict disciplinarian. 
When the novelty wore off, the girls, after the fashion of 
their kind, began to try how far they could go with the English 
governess. As may be imagined from her previous history, 
S. J.-B., though an admirable teacher, did not show herself 
particularly strong in the matter of keeping order. The 
pupils found out their power of " tormenting " her, and 
the delicacy of their feeling may be gauged by the fact that 
on one occasion they gaily charged her with having " weeped 
in church " (" False, by the bye, in fact," she says in her 
diary). With delightful naivete they summed up the things 
she could not do. She could not sing, nor play, nor dance, 
nor paint, nor embroider ? " What can you do, Miss Blake ? " 
Of course she would have thought it unworthy of her to 
mention the things she had done and could do. Moreover, 
for reasons given above, she was spending a minimum of 
money, and vulgar schoolgirls drew their own conclusions. 
She sometimes admits with remorse that she was hasty and 
unjust in little things, 1 and, although there is no indication 
that she ever fell into the tempests of passion that character- 
ized her girlhood, she owns that she often assumed a stony 
indifference, which, .of course, though she did not know it, 
was a great deal worse. All the time (so her diary shows) 
she was almost agonizing over these children, longing really 
to get into touch and fire them with her own zeal ; she did 
not scruple to talk to them seriously and individually about 
the great issues of life ; but when the magnetic influence of 
the interview was over, they felt a certain inconsistency in 
her, a hastiness, a failure to conform to conventional standards 
of right and wrong, a want of equity, or at least of equable- 

1 " I an't just. There's a fact. I'm sorry for it, but it's true. As 
my sky is bluer or greyer, as I see, or think I see, more or less into a child's 
character, the scale varies. Justice is blind no longer, but gives a chuck to- 
one side or the other." 



LIFE AS A TEACHER AT MANNHEIM 137 

ness, of which she herself was almost unaware. " But oh, 
where is the special flaw ? " she cries in her diary. " Lord 
help me ! ' Thou wilt not pity us the less ' that fault of my 
own forms my cross." 

In any case her pupils felt the flaw. Her conscientiousness, 
her zeal, her fine uprightness were more or less lost on them, 
or so it seemed. A cheaper form of goodness would have 
appealed to them more. 

She never spoke of her home life and circumstances, and 
probably even Frl. von Palaus had very little idea that the 
English governess was a woman of family and position. 

" Oh, how weary I am after those hours of struggle internal and 
external ! " writes S. J.-B. in her diary. " Almost like being tied to 
a stake, so suffering, so helpless. And this I ? who used to fancy 
I had power to rule ! Two months more will see me well nigh home 
I trust. Some faint foreshadowing of ' Then are they glad because 
they are at rest.' The thoughts of my green nest, and of the ruddy 
firelight, and the hymns at Mother's knee very frequent in these 
days of struggle." 

She poured out the story of her failure to her Mother, and 
delightful were the letters she got in reply : 

" (Miss v. Palaus) will miss my darling and her unselfish love 
terribly when she leaves. . . . Without any great vanity you must 
know that your hearty ready help must be most refreshing to her, 
and your wide-awake state must have a great influence over the 
Girls." 

" I cannot believe that your work has been done as indifferently 
as you think. I believe you have always done what you could, 
and fought hard against feelings and every form of indolence or 
selfishness. Surely you could somehow raise some response to fun ; 
only perhaps a good deal arises from your being English and they 
not understanding." 

In spite of all, however, the trouble went deep, and she 
chronicles sadly in her diary that " neither moon nor stars 
for many days appeared." Oddly enough, she never seems 
to have entertained the idea of simply giving in her resignation 
and going home. She entirely meant to serve her time, nay 
more, to hold the position until some suitable person was 
found to carry on her work. Certainly it was not the ac- 
quisition of the language that served as an inducement to 



138 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

remain, for, throughout her stay, she learned almost incredibly 
little. The whole of her very limited energy was thrown 
into her teaching. 

"The hearty praise pouring in for the girls' progress," 
ought to comfort me there," she says. " I suppose they 
almost certainly have got on more rapidly than with 9 teachers 
out of 10." 

One is glad to learn that months before she left Mannheim, 
the tide of popularity turned ; and, although even she attri- 
buted the change in great part to the fact of her having worn 
a " ravissant " gown at the School Carnival Ball (a gown 
which she had worn as a bridesmaid in England) she was 
glad to respond by expanding good spirits to the diminished 
pressure. So the pretty frock served its turn. " There's no 
doubt about it that opinion altogether has veered round 
widely about me. I think I am rather popular now, I 
certainly was thoroughly the contrary." 

She was, until the later years of her life, wanting in sympathy 
with the more or less innocent and pardonable vanities of 
youth, and yet during this period she did sometimes cry out 
for a more vivid life, or rather for days and hours of greater 
vividness to break the monotony of the working life she had 
deliberately chosen. It was one of her ambitions to be duly 
presented to Queen Victoria, for whom throughout life she 
had a great admiration, but the ambition was never realized. 

" Darling," writes her Mother, in answer to a very human 
cry, " your young bright days are nobly spent for the Lord. 
Shall we offer Him that which costs us nothing ? . . . There 
always has been (though probably not necessarily) so much 
that is false, impure and hollow connected with most of 
what are termed amusements that you would soon loathe 
them, and feel work and even discipline more satisfying." 
But never for one moment from her twentieth year onwards 
did S. J.-B. ask for amusement and vividness in place of 
work and discipline. 

She might have found recreation and stimulus in the music 
of Germany, but her chief limitation was on the side of Art. 
Music did not appeal to her, and, although one of her greatest 
gifts was the possession of a beautiful speaking voice, with 



LIFE AS A TEACHER AT MANNHEIM 139 

a perfect natural production, she could not sing and had no 
ear for music at all. She argues with herself on the subject, 
" Surely singing, for instance, is a wholesome and good amuse- 
ment. Surely it is right that some should contribute it for 
others ? Yet, perhaps, mere amusement, even for others, 
is not a life-work for anyone ? At least unless as a duty. 
So few sing, as Fra Bartolomeo painted, ' on their knees '." 

This is estimable enough so far as it goes, but artistic per- 
ception is wanting, and throughout life she never got much 
farther in this direction, though she always loved to hear a 
simple congenial song sung by one she loved. *' Do you 
care for the ' unlearned praise ' ? " she used to say. When 
she quoted, as she sometimes did, " 'Tis we musicians who 
know," it was not of music she was thinking. 

All through this period her main preoccupation was with 
religion. She was reading, among other things, the In 
Memoriam and Robertson's Sermons, and she continued to 
read them till the end of her life. Her volumes of Robertson 
are falling to pieces with sheer honest careful lifelong use, 
and many of the sermons are marked with a date and with 
initials to remind her of the times when she shared her treasure 
with some special friend. Assuredly, in the words of her 
loved quotation, Robertson " found her." Living, as she 
was at this time however, mainly among Roman Catholics, 
she felt as so many have felt a real desire to share their 
communion. 

" I mean to study Romanism as thoroughly as I can," 
she says. " Hitherto I have not by any means found, as 
C. Bronte, my repugnance to Roman Catholicism increased 
by close view." 

She was anxious to get a proper breviary or missal, and 
apparently finding this difficult in Mannheim, she wrote to 
her Mother to send her one. That wonderful old lady ! She 
can't have enjoyed the commission, but she set about the 
fulfilment of it most loyally. And, oddly enough, she too 
met with many difficulties. She declined to be put off with 
The Garden of the Soul, and finally she writes : 

" 1 despair of getting a satisfactory breviary, unless you can send 
me definite orders for Treacher to procure one. Marvellous rubbish 



140 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

at the only R.C. shop. ' They were very anxious to fetch the R.C. 
priest ! to help me, ' were sure he was within.' Fancy if Daddy 
had come by, with the carriage at the door and I inside in deep 
conversation with said Priest ! . . ." 

No, there never was such a Mother ! Her openness of mind 
shows itself 'in a hundred extracts. " I do not fairly know 
Thomas & Kempis," she says. " The passage you quoted was 
very grand and beautiful." " I wonder if you will care for 
my extract from Pusey in the ' Times '. I always think 
there is such a chastened, disciplined spirit in what he writes, 
no pepper, nor vinegar." " If I were obliged to have a 
great deal of company, I should, I doubt not, feel ' Lent ' a 
grand repose and comfort ; as it is, I am disposed to kick at 
it as artificial." 

And she is no longer afraid to express her loving apprecia- 
tion. 

" I don't call you so much a ' sweet-tempered ' as an ' excellent- 
natured ' girl, most unselfish, energetic, and at all times ready in 
the behalf of others. A regular ' sweet temper ' is rarely found with 
very strong deep feelings. ... I don't think there ever was such 
true love as your's unless it be her's under disguise. You would 
not now be able to stand alone as you do had circumstances not 
separated you. God has two great works, one for her, one for you." 

" I am quite sure, by pouring out your heart to me, you help me 
on as well as yourself. You bring before me such strengthening 
texts and poetry, and our hearts get so very closely knit. It may 
seem selfish to say so, but your sorrows have greatly enhanced 
my joys by bringing us close, and, as it were, entwining us 
inseparably." 

In a fine sermon on Old and Young, the late Bishop of 
Oxford dwells on the " tragedy going on in the life of many 
a home, ... as father and son or mother and daughter grow 
conscious, sometimes with silent pain, and sometimes with 
scarcely veiled resentment, of an ever-widening severance, a 
perpetual and almost irrevocable ebbing of sympathy and 
trust." If any further proof were needed than has already 
been given of the wholeheartedness with which this mother 
and daughter resisted that tendency to severance and realized 
the sympathy and trust, it may be found in the correspond- 
ence that follows : 



LIFE AS A TEACHER AT MANNHEIM 141 

" Jan. 23rd, 1863. Friday night, 
and Jan. 24th. 

MY OWN DARLING MOTHER, I'm right sorry you didn't get your 
baby's first morning greeting, I went out on purpose to post the 
letter on Friday that you might. It's very tiresome too that the 
other little messenger didn't reach you, however Mother knows 
it was sent, and it's useless to risk sending more the same way ; 
you shall get it in duplicate when I come home, whenever that is. 

Sometimes I think I ought to stay here till I have mastered my 
difficulties and learned to rule, then again I see that years and 
years of my life will be but a learning of that lesson, and the great 
thing is to see how to dispose of them most wisely, not in obstinacy 
or in self -consenting even on a point like that. Besides month after 
month of unbroken work does come to tell on one, specially if one 
starts not over strong; and I feel myself looking forward with 
significant expectation to the coming rest (and still more, refreshment 
time) again, to say nothing of seeing faces and hearing voices that 
I fancy may too not be sorry to see and hear mine again. I am 
watching the now really lengthening days almost like a school- 
child, indeed I am tremendously much of a child yet, Mother, 
and thinking how the days and weeks roll on and bring the home- 
coming nearer. Even if I returned here, I must have a holiday and 
not a very short one, for I have got a good deal used one way or 
another, though now I am again delightfully cheery and strong, 
and able to work twice as well among the children when a laughing 
word comes instead of a weary one ; and they feel it too, I am sure. 

I shall be very curious to read Colenso's book, will you send me 
its name, please ? It is so very easy a way to get up a laugh (which 
somebody calls the Devil's keenest sword) against opinions or people 
you don't agree with, by such a jest as that Colenso wants to turn 
' the Bible into Rule of Three sums ', so much more easy than 
justifiable or Christian. It's just a word which, said of a great 
Mathematician, is sure to ' take ' whether there is any or no sense 
in it. People like to laugh and repeat what sounds sharp, and 
prove their own superiority (?) to such men as they can't hope to 
get within 100 miles of in attainments. 

Besides in a certain non-sneering sense, it may really be true 
without inferring any blame. (I wonder if you like me to discuss 
the question or not ? If not, just tear up the next page or two 
unread, that's all.) 

The Rule of Three (as it is most absurdly called) is perhaps the 
purest form of development of the principle of Cause and Effect, 
the principle that rules the world and lies at the root of all science 
and all logic. You see an effect, it must have a corresponding 
cause. You are aware of a cause, you imply with certainty 



142 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

answering effect. ' To look through Nature up to Nature's God ' 
is strictly (if you choose so to call it) a Rule of Three sum. Again, 
' These are Thy works, Parent of Good, Thyself how wondrous 
then ! ' a pure syllogism, or, if you please, Rule of Three sum 
thus : 

I. The author must be greater than his works. 
II. God's works are great beyond our conception. 

III. How infinite then their Maker ! 

Or, more beautiful and more sacred than all, ' He that spared 
not His own Son . . . how shall He not with Him freely give us all 
things ? ' 

The form of reasoning that St. Paul did not disdain to use need 
hardly be a reproach to Colenso. 

God Himself does give us minds and does bid us use them, He 
is not afraid of His truth standing in tbe sunlight, though some of 
His people are. Robertson draws out very beautifully how the 
Christ never sought blind credence, superstitious belief even in 
His words because they were His. He never said ' I say so, 
there's an end,' (as so many of His followers like to put in His mouth) . 
' If I say the Truth, why do ye not believe me ? ' again, more ex- 
quisite still in its loving humility, ' Though ye believe not me, 
believe the works ', ' Search the Scriptures ' etc. etc., always 
praying them to test Him by His works, by the voice of their own 
conscience, by the testimony of their sacred books, continually 
protesting against the idea of His own assumption of sovereign 
power, ' I know nothing of Myself.' But here I'm getting on another 
subject, and I'll stop. 

But I always get greatly interested in a discussion about the 
Bible, people seem to me often so hopelessly superstitious and 
illogical about it, and so to miss its truest, most blessed meaning. 

It always seems to me that the question divides itself into two 
perfectly distinct parts, regarding, so to speak, the spiritual and 
temporal part of the Bible. The first is entirely without the province 
of the intellect or the reason, ' Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, . . . 
but God hath revealed them unto us by His spirit.' As Colani 
says (I think, indeed, it was him I quoted before) it is not a question 
of logic or of evidence whether we believe ' the sacrifices of God are 
a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, O God Thou wilt 
not despise ! ', the certainty of its truth is self-evident to us ; we 
are absolutely sure the moment we hear the words that the All- 
Good rejoices in repentance and not in blood. It is the word of 
God from without speaking to the Spirit of God within us ' whose 
temples we are.' In Coleridge's forcible words, ' it finds us ', it 
pierces through ear and brain irresistibly to the spirit of every man. 
Yes, every man ; there is not one in the world however debased who 



LIFE AS A TEACHER AT MANNHEIM 143 

could doubt whether God preferred a broken heart or a costly gift. 
He may not think about it, he may let the words pass by him, but, 
receiving them at all into his mind, he cannot doubt. . . . 

Feel, suffer, and words like those bring their own proof ; let 
them once enter and you need not ask whether their truth is received 
or not. ' Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.' 
We know it is so ; no one in the world could really doubt for one 
second whether holiness or impurity brings the man to God, to 
see Him. . . . 

In all this the whole mass of ' Evidence ' goes for absolutely 
nothing. If the Bible had never been heard of to this moment, 
and I picked it off a dunghill, those words and truths would just as 
irresistibly transfix and ' find ' me as a two-edged sword. 

But since, as Pulsford says, ' Most people get their faith through 
their heart, not through their head,' there are thousands of God's 
children who, seeing and feeling the infinite beauty and pricelessness 
of these words and truths, but not seeing fully their infinite omni- 
potence, their absolute impregnability, fancy that to preserve 
from the slightest danger what is to them so infinitely precious, it 
is necessary to claim for the whole casket the same authority and 
value that the jewel claims for itself : and then, because this claim 
does not and cannot maintain itself, they rush to arms for it and 
brand as ' rejectors of the Bible ' some who, like your child, find in 
its words the very deepest blessings of existence. . . . 

I don't know enough about it to have an opinion worth anything, 
but as far as I can judge, it seems to me the result of open fair 
criticism rather establishes than disturbs the veracity of all Jewish 
history as given in the Bible since the time of Moses, while it does not 
seem to me possible satisfactorily to defend the authenticity of the 
account of the Creation and probably the first few centuries, both 
from the certainties of Geology and probabilities of history, and also 
from the internal evidence. 

But what is the leading point to me is the folly of trying to arrest 
honest investigation about anything, and the especial mistake of 
fancying that any result arrived at could touch the real standing 
and position of the Bible. Fcr myself, I can say in all sincerity 
that if not one fraction only but the whole biblical history were 
proved to be utterly unreliable and mistaken, it would not make 
the difference of a straw's weight either to my life or my faith, 
it is not as a rival of Herodotus that I have valued the Bible, the 
destruction of the historical credit of the one would matter just as 
much to me as that of the other. We might lose some grand 
illustrations of God's love and care, but the truths would remain, 
and the history of any century, of any land, of any man, leaves 
Him not ' without a witness '. . 



144 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Well, Mother, it has indeed been more than a page or two, if 
it pains or wearies you do but burn it ; but I am glad from the 
bottom of my heart to tell you honestly what and why I believe on 
a subject where I fear Mother is a little afraid of me ; to put at 
least calmly and clearly before you other thoughts and words than 
those you hear oftenest, not that you may accept, but that you 
may consider them. For you as for me, Mother, God ' shall lead us 
into all truth '. 

Sunday. You asked me about Miss v. Palaus. She isn't ill now, 
but I think she suffers altogether from this terrible ' no holiday ' 
system. Think what it is to go on for 26 years ! with only a week's 
break at a time, and that perhaps once a year. 

Dear, I broke off abruptly, it occurring to me to apply the principle 
of how bad it was to go on without change and how one was bound 
to get all one could ; also that it was a bright day and that I was 
no use where I was, so had better go to Heidelberg. . . . 

The sermon was about sorrow and bereavement, commonplace 
enough and disagreeable sometimes, but chiming in in bits with some 
thoughts of mine. For one thing he said it was a duty to rouse 
oneself after a time and go back to one's daily work. Now, Mother, 
you know better than anyone how I have strained every sinew to 
take up my tool again and work on, from the very first months 
even. But there is a certain sta,.te of things which I can't honestly 
conceal from myself which makes the struggle in some ways a very 
terrible one. 

I am sure ' what is is best ', and I don't say one word in the form 
even of sorrow, only of perplexity. But, Mother, I haven't the 
least the mind I had, I have waited and waited to see if they would 
not waken but now for nearly 18 months my mental powers seem 
struck with stupor. It's no use urging them, they don't answer 
the call. The love and power of mental work seem to have faded 
away. I just jog on from day to day with sense enough for daily 
life perhaps, but I don't seem to get any nearer any return of 
intellects. I won't say it would have been better because if it would, 
it would have been so but I don't doubt if I had had a crushing 
physical illness last Xmas, the agony would have exhausted itself 
and I probably risen from a brain fever as strong as ever, but no 
physical relief coming in this form, the whole weight seems to have 
fallen on my brain and paralyzed it. My whole mind sometimes 
seems a blank, the children ask me simple questions and I know 
nothing. Sometimes it's hard work to crush back the tears when 
it is so. 

You know those terrible (they did frighten me horribly) kinds of 
delusions that showed me a white dog or a wheelbarrow just when 
I was going to pull up when driving you. 



LIFE AS A TEACHER AT MANNHEIM 145 

Well, Mother, it's no use to go on, no use even to say ' What 
am I to do ? ' One feels sure in truth that God ' will find a way ' 
and show it to me. . . . 

But the time goes on and on, very many months already, and 
yet no streak of light comes from any quarter. One does not see 
the faintest sign of change, and yet one cannot see how things are 
permanently possible as they are. 

You don't think it is any want of will or effort in me, Mother ? 
Surely God ' reaps not where He has not strawed '. 

Oh, Mother, Mother, what it will be to rest the tired stupid old 
head on your bosom again. 

80 lessons a week is too much I'm afraid for Ruth, but I can't pre- 
tend to look after her when I'm in Germany, and perhaps nobody 
gets on much the worse for that fact. It's a very forcible rebuke 
to one's vanity to find how little anybody is missed from anywhere, 
(except in their Mother's hearts, darling) and one or two others 
perhaps. Yet that's a hasty way to speak. I believe I do have a 
great deal of love from more people than I deserve. . . . 
Yours lovingly ever, 

SOPH. 

Please tell me by what post this arrives." 

An able letter surely, for one whose " intellects " were worn 
out. Of course she fails to realize how different her whole 
outlook on life would have been if she had found the Bible 
for the first time accidentally in mature life, " on a dunghill " 
or elsewhere. The Mother's reply is surely at least as able : 

" Thursday, Jany. 29th. 
MY OWN DARLING, 

Your letter did not reach me till first post this morning. 
I quite believe Truth will in itself bear coming to the light, without 
suffering. But I do fear there are many minds, heads and hearts 
without one sentence of heavenly truth upon which to fall back for 
comfort, which may be irreparably injured by the doubt and corn- 
tempt thrown upon historical parts ; and thence deduce, ' All is 
false, and cannot do me good or help me in any way.' I think I 
must send you the last ' Cornhill ' come in this afternoon. I imagine 
the critique in it is from a man who would favour free enquiry, 
a son of Dr. Arnold's, Matthew Arnold. He says, ' I censure 
Colenso's book because, while it impresses strongly on the reader 
that the Pentateuch is not to be read as an authentic narrative ; 
it so entirely fails to make him feel that it is a narrative full of divine 
instruction in morals and religion, etc., etc.' I ought to have stated 
that all this comes in in a critique upon Stanley's ' Lectures on the 

K 



146 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Jews ', which Arnold greatly admires. Now that February is at 
hand, I find that the January ! Macmillan has an actual critique 
upon Colenso. Shall I send it to you ? I have not read it. I 
asked Hetty if she had. She considers it severe on Colenso. I 
think I shall send it. 

Your long dissertation did not annoy or weary me at all, indeed 
it rejoiced mother's heart. You seem to have all you want to live 
and die upon. What can you need more ? Certainly I have indi- 
vidually great comfort and enjoyment from seeing Christ as my 
Substitute in a manner that I apprehend you do not. If it be, as 
I suppose, needful, I am sure your loving Father will give it you in 
His good time. As to your mental powers, it is very strange. We 
can only wait patiently and say, ' It is the Lord. Let Him do what 
seemeth Him right '. I don't suppose the important precious 
discipline you are going through could have been produced in time 
of full mental vigor. That will assuredly return if for youi real 
good. Meanwhile you may well trust Him who has done such 
great things for you. I long as much as you to have you resting 
on my bosom. Rest you must have : refreshment of spirit I pray 
you may have. . . . Nothing, as you say, invalidates the grand 
truths responded to from within. At all times the Eternal God is 
thy refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms. 
Your loving Mother, 

M. E. JEX-BLAKE." 

A fortnight later she writes : 

" Only fancy, Daddy has been reading Colenso 's book ! " 



CHAPTER XII 
VARIOUS PROJECTS AND VENTURES 

" REST you must have : refreshment of spirit I pray you 
may have." 

So wrote Mrs. Jex-Blake in the end of January ; but even 
the physical rest was destined to be long delayed. As ex- 
plained in the previous chapter, S. J.-B. did not at all draw 
to the idea of deserting her post before a suitable person 
arrived to supply it, and that suitable person was not easy 
to find. So the months went by, and it was not till April 
was well advanced that all arrangements were made for her 
departure within a fortnight. She was wild with delight at 
the prospect of getting home, but the fates were unkind. 
On May 3rd she writes in her diary : 

" Well, I do feel most uncommonly seedy, no doubt about that, 
having just waded through my packing somehow, and ' bitterly 
thought of the morrow ', and how many leagues and hours lie between 
me and a snug bed, clean sheets and beef tea. But, somehow or 
other I do mean to push through and trust my luck for falling as 
usual on my feet, catlike. Specially anxious, by the bye, not to be 
spied out here or it'll all go down to the baths " she had been 
bathing in the Rhine before breakfast "as I daresay this heavy 
cold may, which reduces me to, or below, the level of the inferior 
animals. 

Well, three days hence ! Who can't hold out that time ? " 

She certainly did her best to " hold out," dragged herself 
out of bed, and went downstairs looking like " une d&erree" so 
Frl. v. Palaus said. She refused to see the school doctor, 
believing that he would prevent her going home, and also 
that he would insist upon her keeping her window shut. For 



148 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

some reason unknown Frl. v. Palaus resolutely declined to 
have an English doctor sent for, and so things went on for 
a day or two till the patient agreed that the German doctor 
should be allowed to say whether her throat was " of im- 
portance." Whether he was allowed adequate means of 
arriving at a diagnosis we have no means of knowing. In 
any case his answer was in the negative. Two days later 
the patient was obviously suffering from a sharp and typical 
attack of scarlet fever. 

It really was a blow, poor child ! She was so longing for 
her Mother, " My year's work just done so painfully, and 
now my cruse snatched from my lips. It is hard, hard I I 
didn't one moment doubt it was right, only very hard." 
Then like an audible voice came the reminder of the inner 
light, and all pain went. 

It does not necessarily follow that she proved a very easy 
patient, though she tried hard to be reasonable, and even to 
keep her window shut at night, which was quite unreason- 
able. The whole situation was sufficiently trying for Frl. v. 
Palaus ; and S. J.-B., although she and her nurse became 
attached to each other, got little of the petting which 
throughout life she so greatly valued when just the right 
person bestowed it. Her Mother's letters as usual were an 
infinite comfort, and her Father was with difficulty pre- 
vented from sending out a London physician to look after 
her, and, in due time, bring her home. 

She made a good recovery, and was allowed to start for 
England on the 27th, when an English lady was engaged to 
accompany her. " Very like getting out of purgatory into 
heaven," she says. " The dear old folks ! " 

Her Father was nervous about infection, and, fortunately 
for him, a trifling driving accident some four or five days 
after her return forced her to consult " Sam Scott." " He 
couldn't swear me free of fever, but said, ' If you meet my 
children on the cliff, you may kiss them.' " 

So S. J.-B. settled down once more to the old life at home, 
not without occasional " cataracts and breaks," for her 
Father did not advance with the times, and hers was not the 



VARIOUS PROJECTS AND VENTURES 149 

only hasty temper in the family. But she never doubted 
that a definite work was in store for her somewhere. 

Her diary is sometimes amusing 'reading. To an acquaint- 
ance who after visiting at Sussex Square and hearing the 
intimate fireside names wrote to her as " My dear Jack," 
she replies, 

" DEAR Miss D., 

Firstly I don't like being called names, and secondly I have 
been overwhelmingly busy, which two reasons must excuse my 
not having earlier sent you the address." 

" I agree with Macdonald," is her connotation. " The only argu- 
ment some people understand is being knocked down, and it's cruel 
to withhold it from them. 

And a very mild knocking down this time." 

" July 8th. Annette's Sunday School. ' The outward and visible 
sign in baptism ? ' 

' Please, ma'am, the baby, ma'am.' " 

That her lamp was not burning dim one gathers from the 
letter that follows. It relates to the young invalid college 
friend whom she had wished to take with her to Germany : 

" Nov. isth. 1863. 

DEAR LUCY, 

Though I know you will have heard before this of dear L.,'s 
going home to her rest, I think you will like to have a few lines from 
me, as I believe E. was not able to write to you herself. 

You heard probably of her breaking a blood vessel last month 
soon after her return to London, and it was very soon after that that 
I saw her for the last time alive. She was very gentle and quiet 
then, and I have since thought that she more entirely realised how 
near the end was than I and others did, for there was no immediate 
danger then as far as anyone could know. When I told her again 
how much a duty I thought it for her to take the utmost care of 
her life for His service Who gave it, and added ' Not that I want 
you or anyone to fear, death, that is the last thought one should 
have of the Home-going ', she said, ' Oh, yes, I never did, and 
I never understood why people do.' I told her Mother of this after- 
wards, and it is a very pleasant memory, among others. 

Well, it was on Thursday, November 3rd. that this terrible spas- 
modic asthma came on, and I am afraid the struggle was sore for 
just the week, but there was mercy in that too, for it made her 
Mother glad to see her at rest after it. Just a week later she died. 



1 5 o SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

very peacefully, passing in sleep into the rest that remaineth. I 
heard of it on Thursday and went up to London directly, and I 
never was more heartily glad of having done anything in my life, 
for both Mrs. B. and E. seemed so glad to see me, and you can hardly 
believe the peaceful happy few hours we had together, indeed 
there came to me (and I think to them too in some degree) such an 
intense realization of what the joy and light was into which she had 
entered, that no room seemed left for any pain even for oneself. 
I did love L. very much, more perhaps than any of you knew, 
but when I stood looking down on that calm pale face, the only 
words that would come into my mind were, ' He was not, for God 
took him '. It seemed quite impossible even for a moment to 
identify her with that chill silence, one felt she was already in the 
everlasting arms. Dear child ! She left altogether a very happy 
memory, of a bright clear life, and a calm peaceful death. We 
' thank God for this our dear sister departed. ..." 

The funeral is to be next Wednesday, I know that you will not 
be absent in spirit, though you cannot be there in presence as I hope 
to be. Mr. Plumptre will read the service at Kensal Green. 

I do not know if I helped dear L. in her life. I know that she has 
helped me in her death almost beyond my conception. I ' never 
feared ' death, and I always felt theoretically how it was the ' going 
home ' and that only, but I never felt it with the practical intensity 
of this week. I never entered before into half its beauty and its 
holiness, I feel almost as if I could never associate sadness with the 
idea again. Let it come in what form it may, ' God giveth us 
the Victory '. 

Just before she died, L. finished a story at which she had been 
working to compete for some magazine prize, if it does not win 
this, we hope to get it published separately, as a memorial that will 
be beloved of many, and indeed I hope it may come out in this 
form. I have offered to undertake the whole business. It is very 
pleasant to me that she has left this, is it not to you ? 

Goodbye, dear Lucy, my letter is already enormous, but I don't 
fear your criticisms. 

Yours affectionately, 

S. L. JEX-BLAKE." 

The monotony of the life that followed was broken by one 
or two visits to Paris and one to Germany, and she had a 
great scheme of going to America to study the education of 
girls there. Here again, of course, she was met by the strong 
opposition of her Father, and again she was forced to put 
forward all the good and attractive points in her plan while 



VARIOUS PROJECTS AND VENTURES 151 

herself profoundly convinced of its vagueness and of her own 
physical inadequacy. She saw a good deal at this time of 
Mrs. Ballantyne (afterwards Lady Jenkinson) whom she met 
first in Edinburgh at the house of her sister, Mrs. Burn 
Murdoch. This was the beginning of another lifelong friend- 
ship, most refreshing to both, a friendship characterized 
almost equally by playful camaraderie and jesting, and by 
many long talks about the things that lie deep. 

" She is just good and true and ' clear ','' S. J.-B. had 
written in her diary some months before. She records how 
they went together to an evening Holy Communion, what 
they felt and said, and goes on without a break : 

" Then, again she so delicious about my bonnet (not calculated 
' To take upon it 
The guilt of her wandering soul '.) 

The first time. I saw you in it, nearly disliked you for it only 
it was past that. 

Not your taste ? Then you oughtn't to wear what isn't, nor to 
get 143. gd. bonnets ! 

Poke into omnibuses ? Poke away, but wear proper bonnets. 

Tottenham Court Road ? No business to go there for bonnets. 

No money ? Then you must manage very badly ! [Badly ! 
poor generous child, counting every halfpenny that she might 
have the more to give away !] 

Your sister ? No, I have nothing to do with her, but I have 
with you. Buy proper bonnets, then get them altered 

Whereon I vowed that if she didn't come to London and choose 
one, I'd buy the ugliest in Tottenham Court Road. 

My compliments to Mrs. Heath, and she oughtn't to compromise 
her taste by letting you buy such bonnets, etc., etc. 

So very very refreshingly, and with such bright arch eyes." 

It was certainly no lack of appreciation in the ordinary 
relationships of life that urged S. J.-B. to find her vocation. 
There are many indications of her popularity at this time 
among cousins and friends. 

" DEAREST SOPHY," writes the mistress of Honing Hall, " It will 
be delightful to see you here. How often have I said to myself lately 
(having no one else to address my remarks to, your Uncle being 
entirely taken up with his harvest, and more bothered than ever by 
it). 'I do wish Sophy would offer her company for a few days.' 

So, well pleased was I to see your handwriting this morning. 



152 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

I can meet you anywhere within reasonable distance. On Thursdays 
I have only your old friend, Little Grey, and on Tuesday, 3oth., 
some of the Catfield people are coming over. Should you be here 
then, it would be an additional pleasure to all." 

And here is a characteristic note : 

" DEAR Miss BLAKE, 

. . . Pray bring back from America a few more such good 
stories as you told me yesterday. I say this not ' hoping I should 
see your face no more '. 

Yours very truly, 

FRANCES P. COBBE." 

On November nth S.J.-B. received a letter that pleased 
her much from the Revd. T. D. C. Morse, rector of Stretford, 
Manchester : 

. " MADAM, 

I have had some correspondence with Processor Plumptre 
of Queen's College about establishing a Ladies' College in this locality, 
and he has referred me to you as likely to help me in this good work. 
Notwithstanding the fact that the movement for the improvement 
of female education has now been for some time set on foot, this 
populous neighbourhood is still very destitute in this respect. I 
have two girls, 12 and 13 years of age, and after making enquiries 
in very competent quarters, I have been told that there is only one 
Ladies' School ' worth' a farthing ' in or near Manchester, and that is 
the Ladies' College on the north side of the city at Higher Broughton. 
We are living on the south side and are surrounded by a large number 
of wealthy people who must necessarily miss such educational 
facilities. I wish therefore to try whether a good Ladies' College 
can be founded on this side of Manchester, and I would be glad to 
know whether you could introduce me to a lady qualified to act as 
Principal of such an Institution. Mr. Plumptre was not quite sure 
whether you might be disposed to undertake such a work yourself 
or not, but, if you were so, I feel sure from what he has told me 
that the matter could not be in better hands. . . . You will 
understand, of course, that the matter at present is only in the 
phase of a project." 

" Plum, I owe thee one ! " is S.J.-B. 's irreverent comment. 
" good old Plum ! " 

" Such a real ' call ' it sounds and what a field to learn 
in ! ... Now America seems put in the background with a 
vengeance." 



VARIOUS PROJECTS AND VENTURES 153 

She plunged at once into plans and arrangements, time- 
tables, lists of tutors, etc., and on November ij\h she writes 
in her diary : 

" On Tuesday and today received letters from Mr. Morse, telling 
me of the Bishop's support, and thus answering my question. . . . 
asking me for ' any suggestions '. 1 feel little more is to be done 
without an interview, but write somewhat on essential heads ' with 
great diffidence ' : 

I am sure that no one can give their really best work to any scheme 
which does not stand on foundation principles with which they are 
in sympathy, and, bearing in mind the proposition you hinted at 
in your first letter, I am bound both for your sake and for my own 
to ascertain as far as possible how far the harmony of our views 
would allow me to be a really efficient worker in your cause. I 
have a great belief in the superiority of rule by Law over that of 
individual will, and should as Director of any such College be very 
anxious to have as little as possible left to my own choice and judg- 
ment ; but,' having once been able to acquiesce in the spirit of 
established regulations, would deem it essential to have absolute 
authority to see them carried out alike by teachers and pupils. I 
am sure that to have such questions ill-defined at first is one of the 
most fruitful sources of after disturbance and failure in a college. . . . 

I believe that really good women teachers are more able to 
measure the power of a girl's mind, and force her to do a certain 
amount of good work than men, who are in my experience very apt 
to let young pupils slip between their fingers, as it were. 

At the same time, after a thorough groundwork has been laid, 
I think first-rate lecturers (almost useless till then) become quite 
invaluable. 

Meaning I want an interview. 

" Dec. ist. 1864. Reached Manchester yesterday. Staying now 
with the Morses. 

Capital man he, clear, energetic and practical ; a little ' tram- 
melled ' by clerical bonds, but in the main wide and satisfactory. 

Spite of the double assurance of Minnie and Ruth that I need not 
talk of my Unitarianism, I could not be quite silent, and so tonight, 
naturally enough, and I think truthfully, gave in my half-declaration. 

Mr. Morse said (in answer to my question whether we might not 
be ' too episcopal ') that, without wishing to exclude any, he wished 
to have the College decidedly of Church origin, and should be sorry 
to have other than Church main workers. 

I said, ' Then perhaps you had better not have me.' 

' But do you not belong to the Church ? ' 



154 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

' Well, I was baptized and confirmed in it.' 

' But you go there rather than Chapel ? ' 

' Well, I don't know. I go there pretty often. I go where helps 
me most.' 

' Where else ? ' 

' Oh, mainly Unitarian ', adding ' I have not, however, any intention 
of joining the Unitarians, but they have helped me ', and, in answer 
to a farther remark ' that I ought to make up my mind clearly 
black or white-'. 

' That I can't do. . . . However on the whole, though very un- 
orthodox, I believe I am on the whole most of a Churchwoman, and 
certainly non-proselytizing, nor, I believe in the least likely to 
originate any religious difficulty.' 

Still he was evidently ' stumped ', and I daresay I shall hear 
more of it. 

Yet, on the whole, feeling as I do, I cannot regret speaking. 
' Be true to every honest thought 
And as thy thought thy speech.' 1 

She visited the Principal of Owens' College, however, and 
the Headmaster of the Grammar School, drew up a tentative 
list of names for Council, and had a long talk with Mrs. 
Gaskell, who promised to be a " Lady Visitor " if the College 
was founded. (" I explaining it to mean ' right to visit '.") 

" As to my contumacy (it's really that and not the heresy !), 
W. and G. to be consulted. I said how I wished him to do only 
what he thought right, yet believing they would be wise to have 
me(!) 

I think he surely wishes it, and, as I should guess he would find 
his consultees not otherwise inclined, a very small push would 
decide him that way. 

(Stories, ' The fool hath said in his heart,' etc. Old sexton loq. 
' I can't but think, sir, there is a God after all ')." 

" Dec. 4th. Came to Rugby last night. The music in chapel 
again and again bringing me well-nigh to tears, so weak and thin 
is one worn. 



1 Mr. Morse had unwittingly given her some encouragement previously 
by telling the story of a candidate for Orders, who when asked " If any 
man broached before you doubts of the divinity of our Lord (' and I needn't 
tell you,' said Mr. Morse to S. J-B., ' what a difficult subject that is ') 
what answer would you make ? " 

" My Lord, I beg that you won't suppose that I keep such company.' 

" Well, but if ? " 

" My Lord, I should take up my hat and walk out." 

* (Prudent too)," comments S. J-B. 



VARIOUS PROJECTS AND VENTURES 155 

(Yet should surely notice the good Miss Garrett's medicine does 
me taken about a fortnight now.) . . . 

And how the conviction came (when first this Manchester scheme) 
' Yes, " be thou but fit for the wall, and thou shalt not be left in 
the way." It is true ! . . . 

Is Minnie far wrong in her ' Men have the best of it ' ? Easiest, 
yes ! 

Fancy the pleasure of going through School, College, returning 
hallmarked, for good happy well-paid work here. 

Yet is the easiest ' Best ' ? 

Must there not be pioneers ? can their work be easy ? 

Yet is there not (in many tongues and roads) a ' noble army of 
martyrs ' ? 

Shall we like Erasmus ' not aspire to that honour ' ? 

But, oh, dear, when the heart's light and brain clear and life sunny, 
it's easy to ' scorn delights ' (having plenty of the reallest) but when 
the ' laborious days ' fail and only weary and dim ones remain 
when the tunnel narrows and darkens, and nearly all the light and 
strength seems to have leaked out 

Then ? 

' My Grace is sufficient for thee '. No other help, ' none other 
fighteth for us ' and what need ? ' Only Thou, O God.' ' 

How little her friends could guess the attitude of her mind 
may be gathered from the entry that follows : 

" Dec. 5th. M.'s and my mutual objection to family prayers 
evidenced by staying out tonight. Justified ? 

I say, prayer continual and inter] ectional rather than formal and 
obligatory. 

But follow out logically ? Public worship, etc." 

Meanwhile she was hard at work, drawing up schemes for the 
proposed College, visiting schools and colleges for men, and 
striving to fit herself for the new work. Mr. Morse must have 
felt that Mr. Plumptre had recommended a worker of remark- 
able talents, fine sincerity and most unusual enthusiasm, one 
whose knowledge of life and of the world was far in advance 
of what might have been expected from her years. Such 
qualities have to be paid for, of course. Nature has a rather 
staggering way of throwing in counterbalancing asperities, 
and, when S. J.-B. proposed to foster a religious spirit in the 
college without the formality of daily prayers, he must have 
begun to realize the inflexibility of the person he was dealing 



156 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

with. He would probably have sympathized with the 
dictum of Cousin Ellie, " I would do anything for you if 
I could only make even a slight alteration " ! 

All we actually know is that he showed no indication of 
wishing to draw back ; and at least one public meeting in 
support of the scheme was duly held and reported at length 
in the local papers. Public opinion, however, on the subject, 
needed more fundamental education than Mr. Morse had 
allowed for, and although S. J.-B.'s budget was characterized 
by the splendid economy that was one of her most striking 
talents the project failed for want of adequate financial 
support. 

" Feb. 22nd. Manchester scheme obiit. R.I. P. ! I must be 
really in a bad way to be able to find so few mental tears for this ! 
It does practically close up my foreground again. Heu mini ! 
Why mayn't useless people be smothered out of the way if there's 
no possibility of being or doing or having ? 

' Because you've got to learn ', as that good Miss Harry said 
last night." 

In the midst of these varied personal interests, S. J.-B. did 
not lose touch with her old girls at Queen's College. Indeed, 
when one realizes the intensity of her own experiences, it is 
rather refreshing to see how whole-heartedly she could enter 
into those of others. 

" Feb. 23rd. 1864. 

Brighton. 
MY DEAR LUCY, 

I feel rather guilty in not having written to you before this, 
but I do not think that you will attribute the omission to any want 
of interest in one of my dear old ' children '. . . . I have to send 
you my hearty congratulations and good wishes for the life that 
seems opening so happily before you. Happiness is a wonderfully 
solemn thing, a thing to go down on one's knees and thank God 
for 

' So pray they, bowed with sorrow down, 
While we whom love and gladness crown 
Bend lower yet in prayer ; 
With hearts so full we need to pray, 
" Oh, make us worthy, Lord, alway, 
This weight of love to bear . . ." ' 



VARIOUS PROJECTS AND VENTURES 157 

Don't be too self-distrustful, dear child, I don't believe that 
you are at all ' unfit to be a help to anyone '. . . . Send me as long 
a letter as your indolence will admit of, and tell me all about your 
prospects, and whether your engagement is likely to be a short or 
long one." 

" Dec. I3th. 1864. 

. . . Having heard from E. B. of your marriage last month, I was 
not quite so bewildered as I might have been at receiving an epistle 
from a certain mysterious ' Lucy Unwin ' 

... I am so glad to hear of your being so happy, dear child (dear 
me, I suppose I ought to be more respectful to so venerable a matron !) 
I daresay if I heard the other side of the question it would not be 
so full of wailings over your incompetencies general and particular 
as yours is. ... I should like exceedingly to see you in your new 
sphere . . . and please thank your husband very much for taking 
me so much on trust as to want to see me, though perhaps, after 
all, the real compliment is to you I It will be a great pleasure for 
me to come to you for a few days when I am next in the North. 

[Received May loth, 1865.] 

I had hoped to pay you a visit before this, and I am afraid you 
will be disappointed as well as myself when I tell you it must now, 
I fear, be indefinitely deferred, for circumstances have made me 
decide rather hurriedly to pay a long-planned visit to America for 
the purpose of learning something about the schools and colleges 
there. 

I am to start from Liverpool on Saturday the ajth., and am going 
to take with me a girl whom you will perhaps hardly remember at 
Qu: College : indeed I think she was after your time, Isabel Bain. 

" May i4th., 1865. 
DEAR LUCY, 

I should like exceedingly to see you if it were possible before 
sailing for America, and your letter has made me wish more than 
ever to do so. 

If I found it just possible to come to you for one day and night, 
would you think it worth while to have me ? I do not know what 
the possibilities are, are you in the town ? or would it be an 
undertaking to get to you from the station ? Would it upset you 
all terribly if I came and went at unearthly hours as I might have 
to do? 

I should like to see you exceedingly, and I should like very much 
to see your husband, if my coming in such a rush and making such 
a fuss wouldn't make him hate me. 

Thank you very much for your photograph. There are no decent 
ones of me, but I will see if I can find you up one of the least bad." 



158 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

The visit was paid in due course, and proved successful in 
every way. Mr. Unwin frankly shared his wife's admiration 
for the character and gifts of her old college friend, and this 
was by no means the last visit she paid to their Yorkshire home. 

In the meantime S. J.-B. had carried out another idea that 
had been simmerimg in her mind for long. It may be re- 
membered how in her childhood she had " bought tracts 
(for 6d) with Carry," and had even, apparently, been 
encouraged by her Father to give them away. The distribu- 
tion of evangelical tracts was a great feature of the religious 
world in which she had been brought up, and, with the 
hopefulness of youth, she felt how much good might be done 
by circulating helpful religious pamphlets of a non-doctrinal 
kind. As a first step towards the realization of this scheme, 
she herself wrote three tracts, 1 and had them printed at her 
own expense. The most remarkable thing about them in 
view of the writer's youth is their non-controversial spirit. 
A Father of the Church could not have written more 
simply. With proper machinery for distribution they might 
have met with some considerable success : as it was the 
poor little booklets crept timidly into the world only to 
be pronounced sadly wanting in essentials by most of those 
who read them. 

" Very harmless, but very useless," said Mrs. Jex-Blake, 
and she at least knew enough of tracts to be an authority on 
the subject. She had evaded reading these as long as possible, 
and, of course it was not to the dearly- loved writer of them 
that she made the crushing comment. 

The Guardian, strangely enough, reviewed them rather 
favourably, and a few total strangers wrote to say that this 
was the thing for which they had long been looking ; but on 
the whole appreciation was rare. 

" Frankly, I call them Cobbe and water," said Mr. Morse. 

For the Kingdom of Heaven is a treasure hid in a field, and 
S.J.-B. never realized how few can avail themselves of the 
treasure without first buying the field. 

1 Appendix B. 



CHAPTER XIII 
A VISIT TO SOME AMERICAN SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES 

" I HAVE such a feeling that with the new world, a new life 
will open." 

So S. J.-B. had written in October 1864, and, seven months 
later, she sailed for Boston. This crossing of the Atlantic 
was another considerable venture for the young woman of 
those days; and, although S.J.-B. took with her a number 
of introductions, she knew no one on the other side. She 
was fortunate, however, in her travelling companion, Miss 
Isabel Bain (now Mrs. James Brander, H.M. Inspectress of 
Schools for Madras, retired), a young girl of exceptional 
charm and promise, in whose education S. J.-B. and her 
parents had taken a deep and active interest. 

It is scarcely necessary to say that both Mr. and Mrs. Jex- 
Blake regarded the new enterprise with profound misgiving : 
a few days before the parting Mrs. Jex-Blake had written 
to Mrs. Ballantyne : 

" I was so sadly selfish and engrossed about America the few hours 
you were here, that I must write a line to tell you how grateful 
I feel for all your kindness to Sophy, and how thankful I am 
that she has such a friend to consult with in this hour of need. 
I hope you did not suffer for the way in which you were plagued 
here : it really was very hard : though I quite believe you don't 
think so. 

Tuesday. Sophy's letter has just come, and I do indeed need 
your prayers and sympathy. The wrench it is to me to have her 
go is indescribable, but I hope and believe my view will be more 
reasonable as time goes on. Any way, I know I shall have strength 
to bear. It is quite a panic, and I feel as if I must run away from 



160 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

it. Yet I would not prevent it if I could. I should have been very 
thankful for an older companion. . . . 

I ought not to plague you, her good kind friend. 
May God bless you and all dear to you. 

Yours affectionatelv, 

M. E. J.-B. 

I hope to write you a less selfish letter another time. I am hardly 
myself now. Is it not curious, I have such a prejudice against 
Americans that I hardly ever will read a book describing American 
manners. I hate descriptions of low life." 

Surely the frequent twinkle was returning to her eye when 
she wrote the closing words of the postscript ? In any case 
there is no doubt about it a short time later when a question 
arose about Miss Bain's leaving S.J.-B. and becoming a 
student in one of the colleges they had visited together : 

" I think Daddy has a terror of only your bleached bones (!) 
being found, if you went about without a companion." 

The two girls left Liverpool on May 27th, and, after ex- 
periencing some rough weather which confined them to their 
berths, they staggered gallantly up on deck to enjoy the 
voyage and to make the acquaintance of their fellow- 
passengers. " A very nice Scotch Independent, Dr. Raleigh 
of Canonbury," is specially noted. 

The great excitement of the voyage is described in a letter 
to her Mother : 

" After I had done writing to you, we were summoned by a cry 
of ' Icebergs ! ' and up we ran to see a bright white light on the 
horizon, just visible, right on our track. Soon another came in sight 
and it was really grand the next hour. The evening hardly beginning 
to close in, but the cold intense, yet so beautiful. . . . On went the 
ship, tearing on to the icebergs, that grew whiter and larger every 
minute, great cliffs of white rearing themselves out of the waves 
that beat into spray at their base, looking so strong and grim 
and beautiful." 

On June 8th the Africa reached Boston about midnight, 
and next morning the two young women went on shore to 
begin the new life. The weather was very warm and most 
of the people to whom they had introductions were out of 
town. The travellers suffered a good deal from the heat and 



from various minor inconveniences due mainly to the strange- 
ness and expensiveness of life in general ; but S. J.-B. 
does not fail to put on record how much they enjoyed 
the ice-cream ! 

Dr. Lucy Sewall was at her post, but Mrs. Peter Taylor, in 
providing this introduction had given the wrong address, 
and it was a couple of days before they succeeded in finding 
her. The meeting was destined to be full of significance in 
determining S. J.-B.'s future career. 

It was an interesting moment in which to visit the States. 
The war was over, but feeling still ran high, and, although 
the travellers met with much kindness and hospitality, they 
were not a little surprised to find themselves in an atmosphere 
of deep resentment against England. 

" Oh, dear, How they turned on the tap, and talked right on end 
when they got near politics, only pausing to wonder at our ' ignorance ' 
in England (that being, of course, the only source of difference of 
opinion with them) . Finally, after listening with the utmost patience 
indefinitely only devoutly wishing to kick over the table I got 
mentally [sic] collared by Miss Peabody with an accusation of being 
' still incredulous ', to which I replied very frankly, that ' certainly 
till I heard both sides I could form no definite opinion.' 

Emerson was refreshing after the rest, inasmuch as, after speaking, 
he would allow you to answer. ... A Miss Elizabeth Hoar told 
me she had seen Carlyle in London in 1862, and that he had said to 
her, ' So you're quarrelling out there ? Why don't you let the 
Southerners go to the devil with their niggers if they like, and you 
go to Heaven with your virtues if you can ? ' Rather sensible, I 
thought, from one point of view at any rate." 

There is a pleasant little letter from Emerson, written after 
this meeting : 

" Concord. 

Monday i/jth June. 

[1865.] 
DEAR Miss BLAKE, 

I am sorry to be so very slow in sending you the address of 
Mr. Fields' good fanner in the White Mountains region. It is 
Selden C. Willey, Compton Village, 6 miles from Plymouth, New 
Hampshire. I looked for it immediately on my return from Mrs. 
Mann's, but could not find it, and now today have stumbled on it 
in looking for something else. Tis probable that you may have 

t 



162 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

seen Mr. Fields himself before this time. When I have found my 
right correspondent at Oberlin, I shall hope to bring you my letter 
in person. 

With great regard, 
Miss Blake." R. W. EMERSON. 

The diary continues : 

" Everyone most wonderfully kind and helpful to us personally 
lots of offers of introductions, etc. That nice Dr. Sewall very anxious 
that I should not tire myself out and ' get sick '. By the bye one 
really can converse with her, I think." 

There is a kind little note from Dr. Sewall also : 

" MY DEAR Miss BLAKE, 

As usual this evening I enjoyed your society so much that 
I forgot to say half that I wanted to. ... 

If you call on Mr. Emerson today, I think you had better call in 
the afternoon, as he told me he was engaged Wednesday and Saturday 
forenoons. 

Don't have any neuralgia when you come to the Hospital today, 
or I may want to try my Electromagnetic machine on youi face. 
I have not seen Dr. Zakrzewska yet, but I want you to come early. 

Yours sincerely, 

LUCY C. SEWALL." 

Dr. Lucy Sewall was at this time a young woman of 28, a 
worthy descendant of " a long line of truly noble ancestry." l 
She held the appointment of Resident Physician to the New 
England Hospital for Women and Children (an institution 
which had been founded in great measure through the exertions 
of her father, the Hon. Samuel Sewall), but there was nothing 
about her to suggest that she had adopted what was at that 
time an unusual line of life for a woman. Singularly girlish 
in appearance, she was and remained throughout life so gentle 
and womanly that, until one knew her well, her reserves of 
strength were a source of repeated surprise. " So simple and 
humble and kindly," writes S. J.-B. at this time, " said 
she ' could not succeed in learning to think enough before 
she spoke about a case.' " 

No wonder S. J.-B. was attracted. A warm friendship 
sprang up between the two young women, a friendship by 

1 See inter alia Whittier's poem, " The Prophecy of Samuel Sewall, 
1697." 



VISIT TO AMERICAN SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES 163 

means of which S. J.-B. was introduced primarily to the world 
of Medicine, and, secondarily, to the wide question of Feminism. 
She had been living, of course, in a feminist world at home, 
and a very choice world of its kind ; but here the movement 
had become more explicit, its aims were clearly defined and 
partially realized. It had, no doubt, lost a certain amount 
of charm in the process, but that is the fate of all movements 
the world over. They too have to be worked out " in the 
commonplace clay with which the world provides us." 

In any case S. J.-B. was profoundly influenced by the 
change of atmosphere. Her conception of woman's work 
and woman's sphere began to widen out. On June 22nd 
she writes to her Mother : 

" We saw Miss Crocker the other day, late Mathematical professor 
at Antioch, and she impressed me extremely with her quiet dignity 
and wisdom, and her tremendous Mathematics, I should so like to 
study under her some day. I felt like an uppish dwarf beside some 
strong quiet giant." 

And a few days later : 

" By the way that wonderful astronomer, Maria Mitchell, whom 
I told you we were going to see, is a very nice woman grand and 
able and strong and kindly. . . . She is to be a professor at Pough- 
keepsie, and, if we go there, I shall certainly hope to learn of her, 
though I did not know that Astronomy would ever have come into 
my life. Any way it will be a great pleasure to know such a woman." 

On the same day she records in her diary : 

" Sat for a couple of hours in Dr. Sewall's dispensary this morning. 
Some 36 cases heard and helped more or less. Some coming with 
bright faces, ' So much better, Doctor,' some in pain enough, 
poor souls. Dr. Sewall with such a kindly ready sympathy, and 
such clear firm treatment for them all. Certainly the right woman 
in the right place, except in as far as she herself gets to look sadly 
fagged and tired sometimes." 

The state of S. J.-B.'s own health continued very unsatis- 
factory. " What is one to do," she says, " when one has 
alternate days of ' feeling like a tallow candle,' and days of 
feeling rather grand and energetic, like yesterday, when my 
' book ' was begun with a bounce ? " After watching her 
for some weeks, Dr. Sewall pronounced her " worn out in 



164 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

mind and body," and advised a holiday among the hills until 
the excessive heat was over. So she paid a delightful visit 
to Professor and Mrs. Rogers at Lunenburg, and then went 
on to West Compton near the White Mountains. " The 
railway (a single line) cut through delicious woods with no 
fence or wall, just through the wildest glades full of ferns 
and pyrolas, vistas of sun on fir and maple boles, then 
again by the side of one lovely lake after another, a perfect 
prodigality of beauty." 

" Aug., i8th 1865. 
West Compton. 

DARLING MOTHER, I don't think I shall be able to write by the 
next mail, as we are going for a few days' excursion round the 
mountains, so I must send you off now as long a letter as I can 
manage, telling you what we have been doing just lately. 

First and foremost, I have been coming in useful as ' teamster ', in 
Yankee parlance, having been chiefly employed in driving my neigh- 
bours all about the country lately. You would have laughed, I 
think, had you seen my ' span ' (pair of horses) the other day, one 
brown, pretty high, the other mouse coloured and some three 
inches lower, the most delightful variety prevailing in the harnessing 
and general appearance of the two. Behind these beauties came 
six of us in a big rough country ' wagon ', all of painted wood, 
two big seats fixed in a sort of open cart. 

We went through such a ford, the Penningewassett River, and 
(when the horses didn't bite each other) we got on grandly. . . . 

" You haven't the least idea what that word ' woods ' means, 
in England there are just a few acres of carefully preserved trees 
and ' no trespassers allowed '. Here you plunge into a vast forest, 
miles and miles every way, lucky if you can find a path at all, else 
guiding yourself by sun and stream and taking hours and hours to 
get a mile or two, yet all through so grand, so green, and so de- 
licious ! If you could just have been with us yesterday ! Every 
few minutes we found some great tree fallen across our path, or some 
black bog of decayed cedar or pine, oh, the scents of those ! 
perfectly delicious ; and then round we had to go, creeping, jumping 
or gliding round the obstruction. Then we would come to some 
little clearing, and catch such views of the mountains we were shut 
in with, then on again and hardly see daylight through the dense 
trees. And such mosses, such ferns, such berries ! 

Then over the river somehow from rock to rock, and such a 
scramble up among the cascades which came leaping down like 
liquid silver in the sunlight, and such pools we did so want to bathe 



VISIT TO AMERICAN SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES 165 

in, and had to [refrain] for lack of time and towels ! They called 
the distance 2j or 3 miles, but we took just 3 hours to get there, 
and then coming back pretty sharply in about half the time. The 
only grief to me was what perhaps you will hardly sympathize in 
that we didn't come across any bear. There are a good many 
left in the woods and one hears every now and then of their being 
met, but they are getting few, and they are proportionately timid 
and modest, running off full speed if they see you. Wouldn't it 
have been fun to see one ? . . . 

I think hardly anything strikes an Englisher more than the no- 
value of wood here. Over the water it's half high treason to hurt 
a tree ; here, if you want a napkin-ring, you strip the bark off the 
first birch you come to and make a lot ; or, if you take it into your 
head, set fire to the woods anywhere and have a bonfire of a dozen 
trees, and no one says a word. We have seen woods on fire over and 
over again, and no one says more than, ' Oh, somebody's fired the 
wood ' ; and the odd thing is it doesn't seem to spread as one would 
expect. 

One comes continually to clearings full of blackened stumps not 
yet grubbed up, the beginning of a garden or house place perhaps. 
I want to see a great big forest fire some day, and I only wish I 
might see a prairie on fire too ; only that is said to be horribly 
dangerous. It is so funny to hear here, as when I was asking about 
a certain road (from St. Louis to California), ' Yes, it's the shortest, 
but the Indians are cross just now and have been scalping a lot of 
people there ' ! 

Well, darling, we had such a drive home by starlight last night, 
and all enjoyed our day hugely. When we got in I suppose I walked 
slightly lame or something, for my greeting was, ' I guess you're 
tired, an't you ? You're kind o' waggling ' ! " 

One is quite sorry to see the Boston postmark again ; but 
the high spirits do not flag. " You don't know," she writes 
to her Mother, " what an immense thing it is for us to have 
got free admission to the Woman's Hospital life here, we 
are always doing something jolly together with the students 
and doctors, all women, by the way. 

Dr. Sewall is resident Physician, and is always asking us to spend 
jolly evenings there, or to join them in going to theatres, etc. 
Yesterday we made an expedition in the evening to a famous place 
for ice-cream, 8 of us there were 4 M.D.s (one of whom is a splendid 
surgeon, the first female surgeon I have heard of) two students 
and we two. After the ices we went back to the Hospital, and 
played a most ridiculous game of cards called ' Muggins ', keeping 



166 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

us in roars of laughter half the time. Then Dr. Tyng (the surgeon) 
sang, and, among other things gave us a specimen of the ' Shaker ' 
singing with its very peculiar religious dance, have you heard 
about the Shakers ? I hope to see them and then I will tell you. 

But can't you understand how refreshing it is to slip into the 
bright life of all these working people working hard all day, and then 
so ready for fun when work's over ? It reminds me of the full 
colour and life of the old London times when all we working women 
were together." 

So she utilised every opportunity of getting information 
likely to help in her study of the conditions of Women's 
education. She regretted in after life that her dislike of 
1 lion-hunting ' had prevented her from making or culti- 
vating the acquaintance of well-known people who did not 
seem likely to be of direct help in her work. Not that she 
disdained the opportunities when they actually came within 
reach. Here is an interesting episode in the course of her 
wanderings : 

" Sept gth. Went over to Concord, Mass, by n a.m. tram. At 
the station found Waldo Emerson just fetching his wife and friends. 
I spoke to him and he very cordially asked us to ' take our dinner ' 
with him. We accepted, first paying a visit to Mrs. Horace Mann 
and Miss Peabody. Mrs. Mann gave me a letter to Mr. Fennel (her 
nephew) at St. Louis, whither I am advised to go after Oberlin and 
Antioch perhaps. Poughkeepsie we must visit later, by wish of 
the President, Dr. Raymond. 

Went on to Emerson's to dinner. Was received by one of the 
daughters, Ellen, simple and kindly, the ' housekeeper ', I should 
think and shown into a room with several people. . . . About 
3 p.m. dinner served, more English-wise than most, though with a 
new Irish maid for waiter, who looked anxiously to ' Ellen ' for 
orders. Another daughter, Edith (about to be married) and a son, 
Edward. They had sherry on the table, which I have only seen at 
the Rogers' besides, . . . Pears and grapes, partly the queer sage 
grapes with tarry flavour, on a pretty basket, large and shallow. 

Mr. Emerson struck me as having one of the sweetest expressions 
I have ever seen on a man's mouth. He was very kind in offering 
help. We talked besides a little about Swedenborg, for whom he 
seemed to have some admiration. ' To be read as one reads a poet's 
ideas, not critically,' he said, and spoke of the pre-inspiration 
works on science, etc., as really valuable. 

Mrs. Emerson talked a little about ' women's questions ', female 
franchise, etc. and spoke of the wonderful blinding power of habit, 



VISIT TO AMERICAN SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES 167 

as in slavery question, looking to Christianity in its advance to 
set all to rights. 

I remarked that few had done more harm to the cause than St. 
Paul by some of his words. She replied very truly that the fault 
lay rather in those who would rigidly apply such words and consider 
them binding out of all connection of time and place. 

It was left to a later friend to point out that St. Paul 
showed himself in this respect the John Stuart Mill of his 
day when he asserted that ' in Jesus Christ is neither male 
nor female.' 

" Speaking a little to an old schoolfellow of Emerson's he told me 
it was hard for anyone to say what Emerson's opinions were. I 
said I had heard of him as a pantheist ; he said at any rate he was 
one of the best of men and had been from boyhood up." 

A few days later she visited Niagara, " the only ' pleasure ' 
thing" she tells her Mother, " I resolved to do if 'possible. 
We hope to spend next Sunday there, not a bad church, 
will it be ? From Niagara she writes to Mrs. Unwin : 

" Sept. yth. 1865. 
Niagara. 

MY DEAR LUCY, 

I congratulate you with all my heart on the birth of your 
little son ! I think by this time you will have forgotten all doubts 
and difficulties, and all but pleasant feelings of responsibility, in 
your great content, have you not ? God very seldom sends us 
either duties or blessings without showing us how to fulfil and enjoy 
and use them, and I do not doubt but you will have found in your 
own case all sorts of new powers and instincts develop with the need 
of them, and will have by this time a pretty definite idea ' What to 
do with a baby ' Is it not so ? ... 

I wish there existed a visual telegraph (if such a phrase may be 
coined) and that I could give you a glimpse of the scene I have in 
front of me, and which is continually stealing my eyes from my 
paper. No less than Niagara in its full glory ! and what that 
glory is I don't think any bid eyes can tell. I have seen a good deal 
of beauty and grandeur in my life, in Great Britain, Italy, Switzer- 
land, etc., but I think never anything so wonderfully, bewitchingly, 
grandly beautifully as this. People talk of being disappointed in 
Niagara, but I think it can only be because, for the first moment, 
the enormous width of the Falls (900 feet in one case, 2000 in the 
other, separated by an island) prevents their recognizing their 
height as well, or else they have not got the right natures to 



168 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

admire with ! (and I think that last is oftener the case than people 
think). 

It gives one most wonderfully the feeling of power and immensity, 
the sort of feeling that was [expressed] long ago, ' When I consider 
the work of Thy fingers, what is man that Thou are mindful of him ? ' 
and yet the feeling of infinite beauty and harmony too. Before 
leaving we go under the Falls, and into the ' Cave of the Winds ' 
behind a vast curtain of water, and that I think must give one 
almost more strongly still the impression of might and vastness. 
It is very little use to talk about it any more, I wish you could 
see it ! 

Thank you very much for writing to my Mother about A. I 
hope she will get away from her present uncomfortable place, it 
would give me great pleasure if she came to you. Only I warn you 
I shall claim her some day ! 

Goodbye, dear child. With all good wishes for you and yours, 
I am ever 

Yours very sincerely, 

S. L. JEX-BLAKE." 

From Niagara she went via Cleveland to Oberlin, and so 
began the Jour which she afterwards described in A Visit to 
some American Schools and Colleges (published by Macmillan 
in 1867). She had been very kindly advised by Dr. Hill, 
the President of Harvard, as to the Colleges best worth 
visiting, and the experience proved both interesting and 
useful. At Oberlin the two sexes were almost equally repre- 
sented, and " coloured " students formed about a third of 
the whole number. " In the year of my visit," she writes, 
" it so happened that the only woman who graduated was a 
coloured girl, originally a slave, who had not even then paid 
her full ransom to her former owners." A considerable pro- 
portion of students of both sexes supported themselves 
wholly or in part by doing the domestic work of the establish- 
ment. Manners were rather rough even for the America of 
those days, but the standard of behaviour was high, and the 
religious atmosphere almost overwhelming. 

From Oberlin she went on to Hillsdale, St. Louis, and 
Antioch (at Yellow Springs in Ohio) spending a few days or 
weeks at each ; and afterwards she visited a number of 
schools. What impressed her perhaps more than anything 
else was the success with which the joint education of men 



VISIT TO AMERICAN SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES 169 

and women was carried on, and this impression was destined 
to play its part in the later struggles of her life. 

" If anyone asks you again about my views of comparative 
English and American teaching," she writes to her Mother, 
" I suppose I may say that I believe on the whole American 
girls are more thoroughly, and especially more universally, 
taught fundamental things. They learn Mathematics more 
thoroughly, and Latin more invariably ; their knowledge of 
modern languages is decidedly inferior (very naturally, being 
so far from France, Germany, etc.) and their English and 
their manners both less polished. But I should think a 
decidedly smaller number of them are able to manage to grow 
up quite ignorant ! " It annoyed her a good deal that, in 
the matter of pronunciation, an American will always ask 
you " what dictionary you go by," and seems quite unable 
to understand the unwritten law of language which in England 
reigns supreme, and from which, if a dictionary differs, it 
simply condemns itself. 

Her birthday inspired a breezy letter from her brother : 

"13 Sussex Square, Brighton. 

Jan. 21. 1866. 
MY DEAR SOPHY, 

Many happy returns of your 26th birthday, as they would 
say in Ireland : and may they ache find you younger and fresher ! 

We have been enjoying three very fresh but windy weeks here ; 
and are now leaving tomorrow for Rugby. We leave Violet, Katharine 
and Netta here, however, as they are only half through measles. . . . 

We have ridden a good deal, been with the hounds more than 
usual ; and not read much. Lecky on Rationalism is the best book 
I have read lately, of the fairly solid sort ; Swinburne's Atalanta 
the best new poem ; Citoyenne Jacqueline the best new novel ; 

Mr. 's the worst stale sermons. Is there anything good out in 

American literature of late ? Artemus Ward is good in his line, 
but his line is audacious. 

I should like six months in America immensely ; locomotive, with 
introductions, I don't know the politics of the people you are with 
or have been with ; but I was always a Northerner. ... I wonder 
how the Mexican business will end : and cannot pretend to guess : 
but I hope Louis Napoleon . . . will soon withdraw his troops, and 
Maximilian will collapse. We are on the eve of a noisy session, I 
expect ; Home Office stung by reform into a queer tarantula, and 
Colonial secretaries badgered about Jamaica by both sides of the 



170 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

House. I cannot pretend to judge till we get more evidence ; but 
as yet none has turned up which in my eyes justifies the execution 
of Gordon who for all that was probably deep. . . . Have I 
wearied you out with politics ? or have you not read so far ? 
With love from us all, 

I am your affecte brother, 

T. W. JEX-BLAKE." 

She answered the letter while the stimulus of it was fresh : 

" DEAR TOM, 

Many thanks for your birthday letter. Though they came 
rather late, I got quite a budget at last. 

I quite agree that you ought to come and see America, both its 
people and its scenery. It's a queer study in all ways, one finds 
so much to like and respect, and so much that one is inclined to 
laugh at. People are certainly less tied and bound by the chain 
of ' on dit ', on this side the water, and that tells more for good 
than for evil, I think ; but on the other hand it lets people who are 
so inclined fall into overgrown eccentricities, and set at nought to 
an alarming extent all rules of grammar and etiquette when they 
don't suit. In fact I have not found more than three or four Americans 
altogether who talk what we should consider cultivated English, or 
behave as if they had been in what we call cultivated society. They'll 
pick their teeth while they talk to you (so will the shopmen ' store 
clerks ', if you please, while they serve you) spit within an inch 
of you, eat things in the streets while walking with you, perhaps 
whistle and sing ditto ; talk about what they ' had ought to do ', 
say they should ' admire to do so and so for you ' or ask if they 
shall ' turn out the tea,' etc. And all this from men who have been 
through College, and women who know more Mathematics, Latin, 
Greek and Philosophy than I dare think about. In fact there's a 
very curious contrast in the much higher level of learning and the 
much lower level of outward signs of refinement in American as 
compared with English averages. 

I'm afraid that while we may have some few hundreds better 
educated, more ' elegant scholars ' than any in America, we must 
confess that there is here a very much higher percentage of fairly 
well read and well educated people than with us. I notice this 
specially among the girls as to the men I know less. But almost 
all girls here have studied a good deal things few English girls go 
much into specially Mathematics and natural science. 

Then I am sure no one ought to speak more highly than I of 
American kindness and hospitality, I am very much afraid few 
foreigners would have found in England such a welcome as I met 
with here. People were so cordially kind in helping me in all sorts 



VISIT TO AMERICAN SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES 171 

of ways. . . . There seems to me much less of the spirit of ' pride 
of office,' etc., much more readiness to admit one everywhere to see 
everything, and to be ready to help without standing too much on 
one's dignity. I found this specially in the case of Dr. Hill, President 
of Harvard University, the first in America and the same in the 
case of the presidents of the colleges for both sexes, Oberlin, Hills- 
dale, and Antioch. 

I don't know whether you will care for all these results of my 
observations, but your mention of America and wish to see it drew 
them out. 

As to politics, I knew very little about them before I came, and 
had a faint sort of prejudice in favour of the South, believing the 
North to be very insincere about slavery, etc. I now think that the 
Anti-slavery cry has been used most shamelessly for private and 
political ends by some, but that there is at the heart of Yankeedom 
a strong true heart beating earnestly in favour of liberty for negroes 
as well as whites, and that there are and have been very many 
most sincerely bent on very unselfish ends, and a great deal of real 
patriotism (on both sides probably) evolved by the war. 

I am chiefly with some of the very best of the Anti-slavery people. 
The Sewalls used to shelter escaped negroes when to do so was a 
penal offence. 

I saw Lecky's Rationalism (which ought rather to be called the 
History of Reasonableness) before I left England, but only read part 
of it. I first found it on Miss Cobbe's table, and liked it very much. 
I don't know of any great American books lately, they pirate 
almost everything English. 

I think the English here must be feeling pretty badly about 
Jamaican affairs, I am. They say the French troops are certainly 
to evacuate Mexico now. . . . 

I hope Hetty got thanked for her note a little while ago, this 
letter is meant as much for her as for you, though I forgot to begin 
it so. Love to the bairns. I suppose I shall scarcely know them 
when I get back. 

Your aff. sister, 

.S. L. J.-B." 



CHAPTER XIV 
QUESTIONINGS 

WHEN S. J.-B. left England her plan had been to spend at 
least part of the winter with an old school-friend, now married 
to the Revd. Addington Venables afterwards Bishop of 
Nassau in the West Indies ; but life in Boston proved too 
attractive. She liked the women doctors and they liked 
her ; possibly they had designs on her ; in any case Dr. 
Sewall was anxious to get her health up to such a level 
as would make professional life a possibility ; and, for the 
furtherance of this end, it was arranged that she should 
share the resident's little house in connection with the 
hospital. Miss Isabel Bain had gone to pursue her education 
in one of the good girls' schools. Already in October one had 
heard of S. J.-B. " helping the doctor through oceans of 
figures in hospital reports," and one can well believe that 
she was an efficient member of the little community. The 
very day after she took up her residence in the hospital 
precincts the " student " who did the dispensing was summoned 
away, and as ot course ! there was a run of arduous cases 
at the same time, S.J.-B. cheerfully volunteered to do the 
dispensing, " and was very thankfully accepted " to fill the 
gap ! Within a week she writes to her Mother : 

" It's very amusing, dear, to learn to write and make up prescrip- 
tions so easily, I shall be up to the doctors in future you see ! I 
have just been making one up for myself under the doctor's directions, 
to my great amusement, . . . and precious nasty it is ! 

It's a great comfort to be of some sort of use to these people who 
are so frightfully overworked just now. . . . Besides being apothe- 
cary, I'm general secretary, write all the business letters (which 



QUESTIONINGS 173 

the doctor hates) and post up the hospital records of cases, etc. ; 
and besides this I requested to be and got appointed what I call 
' chaplain ' with discretionary powers. The only people who visit 
in the hospital (besides friends at visiting hours) are the Lady 
Managers, each of whom has a month on duty, and besides that 
Mr. Barnard comes and holds a short service and preaches every 
Sunday afternoon. So I thought that the patients would like some 
reading, etc., sometimes, and Dr. Sewall gave me leave to do all I 
liked. . . . You can't think how pleased they were all of them, and 
how heartily they asked me to come again, which I shall do pretty 
often." 

A week later (Nov. 24th) she writes again : 

" At present I am so exceedingly content in my quaint pleasant 
quarters in the midst of so new a working world, that I hardly feel 
the need of anything beyond ; and I do greatly want quiet and rest 
to ' recuperate ' as the new word goes. I can't tell you when I have 
found so much chance of rest of mind and quiet interest in things 
wholly unconnected with the old pain, not for years, I am sure, 
and I have ready to hand just as much work as I feel able for, and 
yet no strain on me to do it if I am not able. I can't tell you the 
pleasure it gives one simply to see Dr. Sewall in her hospital and 
especially among her poor patients. She is such a true Healer ; 
so infinitely compassionate and sympathetic, with blue eyes some- 
times quite full of sorrow for the people's pain, yet such strong firm 
hand and will to remedy even through pain. I say a dozen times a 
day, ' Were I not a teacher, I would be a doctor ' if I could. 

(Nov. ayth.) This hospital life is simply charming. So busy, 
so simple, so quaint and so interesting ! I am entering more and 
more fully into it daily, and finding more and more nooks which I 
can fill. . . . sometimes giving mechanical aid in operations where 
they want an extra hand, etc. 

Darling, one very unexpected result is coming out of this new life 
which I embraced simply for its rest and comfort, I find myself 
getting desperately in love with medicine as a science and as an art, 
to an extent I could not have believed possible. I always associated 
so much that is repulsive and nasty with it in my mind, but I find 
that one really loses all sense of that in close contact, that the 
beauty of nature's arrangements and of art's contrivances absorb 
one's mind from everything less pleasant, and I find myself saying 
to myself a dozen times a day that, did I not feel my life devoted 
to another object, I would be a doctor straightway. As it is, I mean 
to use all the time I have in gaining all I can, by observation (for 
which one so rarely has such a chance) even more than by study, 
though I find myself devouring all sorts of medical works too, and 



174 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

am quite amazed to find how far even in this little time I am able 
to understand to a certain extent all sorts of things going on around 
me, and how very interesting they all become in the new light. ... Of 
course one has access to an enormous medical library here, and the 
junior doctors are all as ready to help or show me all I want as 
possible. I in my turn do all I can to take extra work which I can 
do off their hands. Today the hospital note-book was handed over 
to me, and I went round with the physicians taking down directions 
for food, medicines, etc., and then making up the latter and taking 
them to the wards : all of which was very little for me to do, and 
very interesting, but a great deal saved for the over- worked junior 
doctor of the wards. I am really a great deal stronger and healthier 
than I have been for a long time." 

" Nov. 27th. We get up at 6.30 a.m., breakfast at 7, then go 
round the wards with the doctors, then I make up the hospital 
medicines and see what drugs need to be ordered into the dispensary. 
The Dispensary opens at 9, or two days in the week at 10, and on 
Mondays and Thursdays (Dr. Sewall's days) I am there all the 
morning, making up prescriptions as fast as she writes them (two 
of us generally have our hands full, but sometimes I am alone), and 
very often we have not got through our work when the dinner-bell 
rings at i p.m. Dr. Sewall always has an enormous number of 
patients from 60 to 70, and if I go down into the Dispensary 
waiting-room I get seized on so eagerly, ' Is Dr. Sewall here her- 
self ? ' as she is occasionally obliged to be absent part of the time. 

I think anyone who passed a couple of mornings in this dispensary 
would go away pretty well convinced of the enormous advantage 
of women doctors ; and one sees daily how the poor women feel it 
by the crowds that come on the four days in the week when the 
lady physicians are in charge, and the handful that comes on the 
two days when a man presides. . . . They say that they have cases 
again and again of long-standing diseases which the women have 
borne rather than go to a man with their troubles, and I don't 
wonder at it." 

Dec. 1 5th. I have just begun to have a little Sunday service in 
the wards where there was none before. Dr. Sewall is very good in 
letting me make such plans if I like, and comes herself to the service. 

Of course we have a very mixed multitude, but I think we manage 
to worship our ' Father in Heaven ' and look forward to the ' One 
fold ' some day, when neither ' Jerusalem nor this mountain ' shall 
be the vital thing." 

" (Dec. igth.) My chaplain's work has rather fallen into abeyance 
now from the -crush of other things, the only thing I do regularly 
being the Sunday service, writing a weekly sermon for which, by the 



QUESTIONINGS 175 

bye, is not to be omitted in one's list of work. It's all but impossible 
to find any printed ones one could read, one needs to be so abso- 
lutely non-doctrinal and non-combative ; and besides the doctors 
and people will come to hear mine when they'd think twice about 
anything else. 

The young surgeon I told you about has a splendid voice, and 
last Sunday she brought a sort of large accordion and played all our 
hymn tunes, so we are getting quite grand. Wouldn't you like, 
darling, to peep in at us and see all our busy doings ? I wish you 
could." 

To say that the young doctors who came to her services 
were frankly critical of her and her beliefs is an understatement 
of the facts. Some of their remarks have survived, clever 
and flippant for the most part ; but the following letter from 
an intimate friend, whom she had persuaded to accompany 
her to church, is worth quoting : 

" Sunday evening, n o'clock. 

My dear Baby, I cannot sleep for thinking of the rude speeches 
I made to you this evening. I am so sorry that I said them, but at 
the same time I could not help it, the whole service and the going 
to church of most all the people there was such a farce that it roused 
the devil in my nature. 

Besides all this, my Baby answered me so sweetly and truly that 
it did me good to make her talk, and raised my faith in human good- 
ness which was getting almost extinguished by that man's sermon. 
If I ever get into such a disagreeable mood again, and say ugly 
things to tease you, you must give me a good moral box on the ear 
so as to bring me to my senses. 

I do not believe that going to church is good for me. 

Don't think me foolish for writing this, and don't let anything I 
said today trouble you, but be as good to me as you have been." 

In the midst of all this busy life, S. J.-B. never forgot the 
family festivals at home, the birthdays of parents and friends, 
the date when such an one was to be married, or another to 
sail for India. This was a striking gift, more of the heart 
than of the head, that she retained throughout life. " I was 
thinking in bed this morning of the faithful few who would 
remember my poor old birthday," wrote her childhood's 
schoolmistress, Miss Teed, at this time, " And a little bird 
whispered, ' You will get a letter from Sophy.' " 



i;6 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Not that she ever felt bound to say the thing that was 
expected of her. 

" I suppose you don't expect me to say much about Uncle's 
death, darling," she writes to her Mother. " It cannot seem 
to me sad for anyone concerned. I do not think he would 
have learned much more here ; doubtless he will hereafter." 

Three weeks before the anniversary of her parents' wedding, 
she writes to her sister : 

" DEAR OLD CHARLIE, Please keep the enclosed very secret till 
the morning of May i2th. 

Get a grand plant of some sort full of blossom, geranium or 
fuchsia or something, any price up to 53. and put the letter in its 
leaves on Mother's plate at breakfast. Mind you get a glorious 
plant. . . . 

Your aff. sis., 

S. L. J.-B." 

From a letter written to her Mother at Christmas 1865 one 
realizes what a child she was still : 

" Our rooms did get so prettily decorated, Dr. Sewall is clever 
that way,' and I took holly round to all the wards that everybody 
might have some bits to look at. We had quite a rush of babies 
just then four born on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 
When we were going round the wards on Christmas Day Dr. Sewall 
ordered of course ' light diet ' for the new Mothers, so I said laugh- 
ingly to console them, ' Well, I guessed the babies were worth losing 
a dinner for, weren't they ? ' ' Humph ! ' says one of the Mothers, 
' a good dinner's worth more to poor folks ! ' 

To tell the truth I was too much taken aback to reflect what a 
sensible woman she was ! What would you have said, dear ? 

Darling, I come more and more to the conclusion that anyone 
who wishes to preserve intact all romantic ideas about ' Mother's 
love,' etc., had better not live in a Lying-in Hospital. It's a grand 
and blessed thing when it does come, but that isn't always. We 
had two of the babies born here found deserted in the streets a few 
days ago, the day after their mothers were discharged." 

On March 4th, 1866, she writes to her Mother : 

" I have given up my Sunday service, or at least have resigned it 
into the hands of a minister who already had a service in the medical 
wards. I found it very hard to find time to prepare properly for 
it, and sometimes it tried my nerves very much, and besides it got 
to be a great weight upon me in the way of responsibility and abso- 



QUESTIONINGS 177 

lute honesty in what I said. Things seem so very un-clear to my own 
mind that it rather weighs upon me and worries me to be trying 
to say much about them to others. Perhaps this state may just 
pass away again, but in the meantime I like best to ' be true to every 
honest thought ' and, till I'm sure, to be silent. 

Much love to Daddy and Carry, and such a lot of kisses for my 
darling. 

Yours lovingly, 

SOPH." 

To understand the inner history of this change one must 
revert to the diary, the most intimate friend of all and 
this takes us back for a moment to the time of her arrival 
in America. 

" June 1 8th. How thoughts and plans and possibilities rush upon 
me ! The opening of the bar to women here, Mr. Sewall's wish 
for a female pupil. ' Ah,' as I said to L.E.S. last night, ' if I had been 
an American, I believe I should not have doubted to be a lawyer.' 
She thinks one should be, if one has the powers and will. 

Yes, but is the ' dedication ' and vocation of years nothing ? Have 
I believed rightly or wrongly that God meant me to do something 
for teaching, and that in England, to the almost certain exclusion 
of all other life-work ? Rightly, I think. 

Then, again, the ministry. What seems to draw me so irresistibly 
that way ? Is it pride or wish of note, or is it vocation ? Is it 
partly Dr. Arnold's belief that Headmaster ought also to be chap- 
lain ? . . . 

One seems at crossways, ' the tide ' perhaps. Well, look, 
and surely the kindly Light will lead." 

Anyone who had gone through all S.J.-B.'s papers up to 
this date with an open mind would have said that the choice 
really lay between teaching and preaching. All her life she 
had been more interested in religious subjects than in any 
others, and her gifts of exposition and of public speaking were 
far above the average in either sex. In later years, when she 
was addressing thousands of people, she could make all hear 
without seeming to raise her voice ; it remained full, mellow, 
easy, perfectly controlled, just as when she sat at the head 
of her own dinner-table. She might have spent some con- 
siderable part of the day in " wishing somebody would shoot 
her," but no one would have guessed it when the moment 
came. " My mind is perfectly at ease when she rises to speak," 



i;8 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

said one of her patients in Edinburgh, many years later, " one 
feels then that humanly speaking nothing can go wrong." 
As a matter of fact it was when she was addressing a large 
audience that she looked most radiantly happy. 

In many ways, then, she would have made a good minister ; 
we know that she wrote a number of sermons that were 
appreciated by her colleagues, and she went so far as to preach 
at Weymouth (Mass.) for the Rev. Olympia Brown. " On 
seeing Him who is invisible " was the subject she chose, and, 
judged by ordinary standards, the sermon seems to have 
been a success. 

The main reason why she did not follow it up was (as 
indicated in the last- quoted letter to her Mother) the change 
that took place in her religious views after she had lived some 
time in America. In England she had been considered an 
advanced thinker on religious subjects : in America the 
America in which her lot happened to be thrown she was 
amazingly orthodox and conservative. For the first time 
she found herself among people who really did not care about 
religion as she understood it. 

" July 2nd. Very nice these people are," she writes in her diary, 
" and very nice Mrs. Rogers' deep clear interest about the poor and 
wicked, refuges, etc. 

Yet is there not in them the sort of un-religiousness which half 
jars on one in Unitarians ? I wonder why. I hope I shan't get into 
it. ' More of reverence in us dwell.' Yet so difficult in throwing 
off old bonds of sentiment not to lose something of the real feeling, 
and, as Miss Cobbe says, if our religion is not a synthesis of all the 
good and beauty we know, we are less, not more, by rejecting 
errors." 

And again : 

" A new psychical study in the shape of Mrs. F., who ' can believe 
in Providence but not in God,' and who ' means to say that there 
is absolute right and wrong, but not good and bad people. People 
were born with certain notions and acted accordingly ; they did 
the best they could and could do no more.' 

Mr. F. allowing and accepting the consequence that men differed 
no more from brutes than by finer organization, no more than the 
elephant from the fish ! It is really good to contrast opposite 
extremes of thought, it gives one a certain sense of stability and 



QUESTIONINGS 179 

reality to have to defend one's castle on both sides, and so to feel 
sure that it is one's own at least. . . . 

Talking of struggle as the only root of good, I quoted ' perfect 
through suffering,' and spoke of my belief in Christ's struggle in those 
30 years as the only possible root of his accordance of will with 
God's. 

July 1 6th. Curious how the things most living to me are just 
simple absurdities to another. Talking of tombstones, Mrs. H. 
doesn't like them, as preventing the dead rising in idea. Mrs. 
F. ' Well, you don't expect them to, do you ? ' (as a sort of reductio 
ad absurdutn). ' Certainly I do : the Bible says so.' ' Oh aw ah 1' 
with such a face, ' if I thought so, I'd take to Banting at 
once.' ' 

Curious how none of them seem to have seen that the 
frivolous remark involved a great principle 1 

There were many stories and jokes on biblical themes, and 
though S. J.-B. even at this time was a touchstone in the 
matter of jokes, never allowing one to pass which was not 
funny enough or clever enough to justify its breadth or its 
seeming irreverence her sense of humour was keen. 

" Suggestion to read the prayer for fair weather, ' Lor, sir, 
not a bit of good with the wind in this quarter.' " 

But she was constantly reverting to the old religious in- 
tensity : 

" How reading of any spiritual conflict even such an ' 6bauche ' 
as in Agnes of Sorrento rouses one's whole nature in a sort of 
enthusiasm of longing and half prophecy ! . . . 

Sometimes I feel such intense sympathy and pity for Christ because 
of his very deification. That after spending his whole life to learn 
and tell men about his Father, he should find them, after his death, 
trying to set him up himself to obscure that Father, making God 
a foil to Christ ! " 

With that extraordinary frankness that does such credit to 
both, she writes to her Mother at this time, " I was thinking 
the other day how curious it was that I really never read one 
Unitarian book till I was altogether Unitarian, 1 never one 
but the Bible at least, if that counts." 

" It is strange," says someone, " that, in all our talk of the 

1 It was only for a very brief period of her life that S. J.-B. would have 
called herself by this name. 



i8o SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

evolution of the individual, we fail to recognize the evolution 
of the medium." S. J.-B. seems to have thought as so many 
earnest spirits thought in those days that she stood practi- 
cally alone. " It has so been," she says in the same letter 
to her Mother, " (I can't say chanced] that I have had next 
to no human sympathy or help on my way. I do not re- 
member that anyone but Mrs. Ballantyne has given me much 
of either in this one strife, and before I knew her the worst 
was over." 

One must bear this in mind in reading the passage that 
follows : 

" To realize more and more that my life will be one for years if 
not to the end of struggle and perhaps obloquy, certainly out- 
casting from the synagogue, struggle theological and social : and 
will it even succeed at last ? Yes, surely, inasmuch as Robertson 
says how to fall in the gap is success, to be one of the conquering 
army, if not of the conquerors. 

The next entry in the diary is the quotation of a flippant 
joke about the Californians who " when they go to a certain 
warm abode have yet to send back for their blankets." 

" July 3oth. A very interesting talk with the Fs. . . . trying 
hard to show Mrs. F., who longs so to believe in a loving God, ' Thou 
wouldst not seek me, hadst thou not found me,' and that to long 
is almost to believe. Also to show her that Christ's Christianity is 
a strong true manly thing, that what she deprecates is the letter 
not the spirit, and that her willingness to live, and yet fear to die, 
without Christianity is of the essence of Calvinism. 

With him, still more interesting, (except that one pities and longs 
to help her) about origin of evil, free will, etc. I arguing that God 
could not give men the possibility of virtue without the possibility 
of evil, he arguing a higher state where evil not possible. I say 
then you exclude the idea of goodness from God. 

With some effort cleared ideas so fax as to detect the ' undistributed 
middle term,' to distinguish between the possibility of evil and the 
wish toward evil. Saying that the very truth we prized in Unitari- 
anism was that it said ' Christ, if God, was no example ' and that 
Christ's very goodness consisted in that he had the possibility of 
evil and no wish for evil. 

Illustrating with May forbidden sugar, in a room with and without 
it. In one case unable to disobey, in the other restrained from the 
wish to disobey. 



QUESTIONINGS 181 

The two, confused in one, being absolute opposites. 

Is this all part of my training ' for the ministry ' ? Please God. 
One does so gain a clearness never, one trusts, to be lost. 

He asked me tonight if I did not find I had a clearness of thought 
arid language very rare ; and she said I was the first person who had 
made her feel the intense reality of the invisible and long after it. 
Please God, a prophecy. 

I said I had won through infinite struggle almost ' to blood ' 
a certainty to which the visibility of the outer was nothing. And, 
please God, it is deeply true." 

Ah me, Prometheus ! The audacity of us small mortals 
all! 

But the words that follow are indeed ' a prophecy.' 

" I have such a conviction of infinite struggle and contest in the 
future, yet please God, of earnest, on-pressing struggle, and in 
the end, victory and Rest. . . . 

Oh, dear, the ' religious ' people and their effects ! very nearly 
making L. E. S. hate the name. So far from all good being ' in the 
name of our Lord Jesus Christ ' or rather in God's, there is actually 
room for the reverse to be said ; not wholly truly, I trust though. 
But she said, ' If I want help for those poor things in or out of 
hospital, I never go near the pious people. I have and I know 
them. Go to atheists, and you are never refused.' 

Oh, dear ! " 

Knowing the spiritual history of earnest souls in that 
generation, one is not surprised to come a couple of months 
later upon the entry : 

" I am wonderfully unsettled and uneasy somehow. ... I do 
believe this terrible sort of logical doubt of Theism that enters in 
not un-faith, but a failure of the abiding surety an entrance of the 
admission how possibly reasonable Atheism may be hurts horribly. 

And then isn't the whole world void ? 

Oh for the ' I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not ' ! and 
doubtless one has it, both in ' Neither pray I for these alone,' and 
also in those who live and love one, Mother and Octa. . . . 

L.'s absence of sympathy weighs heavily. Hitherto all my friends 
have met me here, she does not. 'All the help she ever got, she 
got from herself and her will.' Not from the Bible or hymns, etc. 
She calls herself a theist, but it seems to me to run close to practical 
atheism. . . . 

" Oct. 29th. She is so good ! Told her something of today's 
pain, she so sympathizing and good ! Believed that the struggle 



182 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

was part of the sequence of early training and later reaction into 
' wider faith ' what many had to go through one time or another. 
I spoke of herself, asked her what practical difference she would 
find if an atheist. ' Not much generally,' she thought, but in 
trouble she did pray. She couldn't help it, and believed it was good, 
and when her friends died she was happier. ' When she thought 
of it, she felt very sure about God, but very seldom did stop to 
think. She was sure her first duty was her work, etc. and then she 
had small time and sense left. 

I said lives not continually lived as seeing Him who is invisible 
would be worth but little ; she said Then her's was so, and many 
others. So I retracted hastily. ' At least mine would be.' 

Perhaps her's is actually higher and more childlike. ' He will 
care for my soul,' l as it were." 

" Nov. i $th. Looking at p. 253, ' the Ministry ? ', I ask whether 
the sort of spiritual speechlessness almost deadness is not per- 
haps a merciful answer to that question. Clearly I can't preach 
now." 

" Nov. 24th. This temptation to medicine is pretty strong in some 
ways, both as to present study and future life. . . . But ' not each 
on all ' come the claims, this is surely already responded to, and 
will surely grow without me. 

I feel as if my work would not [how little she knew !] as if, at least, 
it was given me to do and needed most of all my labour. 

So ' Traveller, hold thy cloak ' ! 

While it was identical with life interests and labour am I to claim 
' vocation,' and then when others open, forsake it ? 

' Shalt not excel.' ' 

" Nov. 25th. I cannot but believe that if God enables me . . . 
to do my work as I have believed and planned it, it will do wider, 
deeper good for England than the addition of one woman doctor 
can. 2 



1 The reference is probably to the reply of Wilberf orce when asked 
whether in his struggle for the emancipation of the slaves, he was not 
neglecting his own soul, " I had forgotten that I had a soul." 

2 " But thou wouldst not alone 
Be saved, my father ! alone 
Conquer and come to thy goal, 
Leaving the rest in the wild. 

... to thee it was given 
Many to save with thyself ; 
And, at the end of the day, 
O faithful shepherd I to come, 
Bringing thy sheep in thy hand." 



QUESTIONINGS 183 

And then if I say, ' Ah, but see how my theology will impede 
me ! well, would you have everyone give up working but those who 
hold the popular views ? is it not just those whose views have 
changed who need to work and justify them, and not hide light 
under a bushel at call of indolence or cowardice ? You know that 
you believe in the horrible harm of leaving education to Calvinists, 
downtreading and hardening earth round the toot, that you 
believe in children being taught ' the two commandments ' and no 
more, and yet, because you would so teach them, you half shrink 
from the battle through which you must do it. 

L. E. S. says, ' If you feel you can and wish to be a doctor, you 
ought.' Ah, but I can do the other too. And if it is only selfish or 
worldly considerations that sway you to medicine if it is the 
interest or the power or the success, mainly or wholly if it is the 
difficulties present or future that make you half yearn to turn from 
the other surely these are no reasons. 

Surely, having presented ourselves, our souls and bodies, a reason- 
able sacrifice, these things no longer enter in." 

In view of all that was to follow, it is interesting that, in 
turning to Medicine, she should suspect herself of ' half 
shrinking from the battle.' Here is proof, if proof were 
needed, that while half of her enjoyed the fray, the other half 
had to be dragged, an unwilling captive, begging always to 
lie down and be at peace. 

" The Medicine fascinates me. ... If I resume teaching, it will 
be grand to have an M.D. for head of College : if not, why Medicine 
is a ' good work,' and if I am led up to it, it may be mine after all. 

But won't E.G. be cross ? " 

Here are two pleasant little sidelights on the situation 
from letters to her Mother : 

" (Jan. 2ist. 1866.) And, darling, do you know that the doctor 
has such a splendid temper, and is so infinitely gentle, that I really 
believe she is improving mine, because I'm absolutely ashamed 
to be cross to anybody so good. Suppose I come home angelic, 
dear ? " 

Her best friends would have said there was no great cause 
for anxiety on that score. 

" (Feb. 6th.) Yes, dear, I mean to be a thoroughly good nurse 
for you at any rate, if ever you need me ; as to ' Doctor too,' I 
can't say. I should like to be enough of one at least to know how 



184 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

to save you some pain. I listen to and learn specially everything 
that I think can ever help my darling, it would be grand to be 
of some use and comfort to her if she was ill." 

A few weeks later she wrote to Mrs. Unwin : 

"13 Pleasant Street, Boston. 

March 3rd. 1866. 
MY DEAR LUCY, 

I hope you are quite prepared to renew your invitation to me 
for next summer, for I'm beginning to think seriously of my visit 
home, and I want very much to see you ! I say my ' visit ' for I 
have been so well and strong since I came to America, and have 
found so much to interest me, that I think it very likely I may come 
back here after seeing all my home folks. . . . 

I am so glad to hear that you have got Alice with you, and expect 
to like her. She is a real friend of mine, and a very true and valuable 
one. ... I only hope you will let her take as good care of you as 
she used to do of me. . . . 

Whenever you feel energetic enough to enjoy a chat by pen and 
paper, I shall be very pleased to hear of your doings. Pray tell me 
all about the Baby of course the most wonderful of his kind and 
be sure, dear child, that I shall care very much to hear and know 
about everything that concerns you. 

Please give the enclosed lines to A. I shall enjoin her to feed you 
up no end, and whenever we do meet, be sure I shall ask if you let 
yourself be taken proper and sensible care of. I believe in food and 
rest as just the best doctors in creation with all my new medical 
lights ! 

Goodbye, dear child. With every good wish for you in the New 
Year, I am. 

Yours affectionately, 

S. L. J.-B." 

All through this time her happy letters had been giving no 
small pleasure to the " old folks " at home. 

" Brighton. i8th Dec. 1865. 
DEAREST, 

Your welcome letter arrived a day or two before the i7th., 
but dear Mother kept it back till the morning. Thanks for all your 
good wishes. One thing you can always do, pray for me, and 
that, I trust, you will do daily. I have constant faith in prayer 
simply offered up to our heavenly Father through the one mediator 
between God and man. I believe it never fails. 

I am rejoiced you are so quiet at Boston, and have employment 
that interests you, but even that work will hurt you, remember, 



QUESTIONINGS 185 

if you have too much of it. You want rest, dearest child, and only 
light agreeable work on your hands. I wish I could see Dr. Sewall, 
to give her a Father's heartfelt thanks for all her loving kindness 
to you. She is indeed an invaluable friend. If I am to see her, 
she must come to Europe, for I shall never cross the Atlantic. . . . 
I am very glad you are so well, and your letters are so cheery that 
they are a great pleasure. 

We are all, thank God, fairly well, and are to have Tom and his 
wife, and four (I think) of the children here after Christmas. On 
Thursday last, at 2 a.m. their house was on fire, and till 2.30 a.m. 
he did not expect to save the house ; and had there been a high 
wind, nothing could have saved it probably. Mercifully it was a 
still night and everything went well. Two engines were on the 
spot rapidly, in perfect order, plenty of water close by, and the 
superintendent very active and intelligent. No crowd, and the 
entrances kept clear by respectable known men : and by three 
o'clock every spark was out. 

The children were sent off rapidly to the school-house, and all 
five (baby being put elsewhere) put in Miss Temple's bed ! Nobody 
has been hurt, a few colds and that seems all. Our God be praised. 
How different it might have been ! 

Your affecte Father, 

T. JEX-BLAKE." 

And the Mother writes : 

" Jan. 2Qth. 1866. . . . You were very good and very right not 
to attempt to enter yet as a student. . . . 

I had much rather know you well and happy there than see you 
ill and know you worried here. If they would only have the Cable, 
I think Boston no distance. I should certainly like the Cable, 
but I don't hear a word about it. Couldn't you apply to Govern- 
ment ? " 

" Feb. 2oth. I hope your medical education is progressing, and 
that you don't addle your brains. I shall expect you to make 
something on the way home by your medical knowledge." 

" Mar. 5th. It is such a repose and joy to me to hear of your 
being occupied so usefully and happily, and feeling comparatively 
well, though I suspect sometimes my little one is a wee overdone." 

The medical study was more or less of a joke so far to her 
friends at home, and many are the enquiries as to when she 
means to return and go on with her life after this interesting 
digression. 

" I am very glad you find things and people pleasant in America," 
writes Mrs. Unwin. " I hope they won't be so nice that they will 



186 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

tempt you to stay there very long, for I shall be very glad when I 
can think of you again without that great sea between us. I do 
so want a long talk with you about no end of things. I don't think 
I ever wanted you more than when I was ill." 

And Mr. Unwin expressed the view of many when he wrote : 

" If I told you of the estimate in which I hold the purpose to which 
you are devoting your life, you would suspect me of flattery, so 
I abstain ; but, barring all that, your friends in England are in 
great need of you, and I think it is very horrid that you should leave 
them all, to whom you would be of infinite service, on God knows 
what outlandish errand. They all grudge you to Boston entirely, 
so pray be quick and come back." 

Dr. Sewall, on the other hand, had become not a little 
dependent on her competent helper, and, although this 
friendship too was not without the " cataracts and breaks " 
to which S. J.-B. so often refers in her diary, there is no doubt 
that the older and gentler woman found it not only a pleasure 
but a great asset. " How I wish I had you here : I do so 
want your strength I So few people are strong," is a sentiment 
that recurs in her letters many times from now to the end 
of her life. 

So in June 1866, S. J.-B. returned to England to see her 
parents, and to talk over the whole question of her future 
career with them and with other friends. 

" Most people are much more in favour of Medicine than I ex- 
pected," she writes, " except Miss Garrett, who thinks me not 
specially suited, and E. S. M., who thinks it indecent of unmarried 
women knowing all about these things." 

" July 8th. Sunday. ' Taller,' say Laurence, Mother and self. 
' More firmly knit,' say do. ' Muscles like iron, as if rowing all 
morning and prize-fighting all afternoon,' says Nigger. 

Well done America and L. E. S. ! bless her. 

Almost at the same moment Dr. Sewall was writing : 

" I really feel quite well satisfied with the increase in my practice, 
and if it continues to increase for the next two years as well, we 
shall be able to take a fine house and live in style. I cannot tell 
you how much pleasure I get out of anticipating our house-keeping. 
When I am too tired to do anything, I lay on the sofa and plan 
and plan and think what a good time we are going to have, and 
am as happy as a cricket." 



QUESTIONINGS 187 

So America won the day, though not without many ques- 
tionings. 

" August 1 2th. Sunday. On Sunday last at Mrs. Hyde's 
suggestion wrote to Macmillan. On Tuesday heard from him, and 
had a ' book not too short ' warmly accepted by him, at ' no risks 
and half profits.' 

So we gradually come to our wishes when we have ceased to look 
for them. I accept it almost as I did the preaching, because I 
had so longed for it. 

This day three weeks on the Atlantic, 5 weeks, home to L. E. S., 
I trust. Study Medicine ? ... or push on in literary career now 
opening apparently ? 

How about conflicting interests and powers hereafter ? If my 
book inter alia brings me to notice of Commission, 1 etc., cry 
off from my chance because too busy as a doctor ? 

Ah, well, long way off yet ! Do the work ' lies nearest thee ' 
and leave the rest ! " 

1 The Schools Inquiry Commission, presumably. 



CHAPTER XV 
PIONEER WORK IN AMERICA 

ON September 1st, 1866, S. J.-B. sailed again for America. A 
warm welcome awaited her, and she speedily fell back into 
her niche at the Women's Hospital. Her main interest for 
the first month or two was the writing of her book on A 
Visit to Some American Schools and Colleges, the manuscript 
of which was duly despatched to Macmillan in November. 
Based though it avowedly was on somewhat limited observa- 
tions, and dealing with a transient stage of a great subject, 
the book was extraordinarily fair and clear, and was greeted 
with genuine respect by those who were qualified to form an 
opinion. What was equally important, it made really excel- 
lent reading. At the close of a four column review the 
Athenaeum said : 

" An English teacher, whose special avocations enabled her to 
gain prompt attention from American instructors, and qualified 
her to detect the true worth and significance of the facts brought 
under her notice, Miss J ex-Blake has written a sensible and enter- 
taining book upon an important subject ; and, while we thank her 
for some valuable information, we venture to thank her also for the 
very agreeable manner in which she imparts it." 

" Redolent with common sense and practical suggestions," said 
The Stationer. 

How sane a view she took of the whole subject may be 
gathered from the quotations given in the appendix. 1 

Having happily despatched her book, she was free to give 
her whole mind to the subject of Medicine, and she seems 

1 Appendix C. 



PIONEER WORK IN AMERICA 189 

now to have enrolled formally as a medical student. In any 
case we hear of her dissecting when material could be got 
and finding, in the stimulus this gave to her work, a new 
interest and fascination. 

Excellent work was done at that Women's Hospital in 
Boston, as a number of our English women doctors have had 
reason to testify : sickness was relieved, and what is quite 
as much to the point competent and able doctors were 
turned out year by year. But of course the scholastic side 
of the work was on a very different level. Even for those 
days, the practical scientific education, and, above all, the 
sheer supply of material, were inadequate in the extreme. 
Then as now, of course, it was true that " la carrire ouverte 
aux talents," and when women doctors were so rare there 
was little doubt that a competent woman would make her 
way. Certainly it was not the hallmark of a good University 
degree that helped her, for good Universities existed for the 
male sex only. Graduation in America to this day may 
mean a great deal or it may mean just nothing at all. It was 
not the fault of the woman doctor of that period if her 
" degree " was one that failed to inspire the enthusiasm of 
those that understood. 

Now S. J.-B.'s entry on any new sphere in life could seldom 
be fitly described as the addition of a little more of the same 
stuff. For better or worse, she was apt to come somewhat 
as the yeast comes to the dough, and yet that metaphor, too, 
falls short, for the medium reacted upon her as intensely 
perhaps as she acted on the medium. In the present case 
she had drifted into medical work all uncritical and full of 
admiration 1 ; but a visit to England brought her back as 
an outsider with her critical faculty fully awake. She saw 
that the need of adequate Graduation urgent though it 
might be was as nothing compared to the need of adequate 

1 As early as June, 1866, she had written to Dr. Sewall : " I am glad 
you are pleased with prospects as to the College ; but, however good 
you may get it to be, take notice (if I study at all) I don't mean to graduate 
at any Woman's College, on principle, or else for vanity and ambition 
sake, which is it ? " Whichever it was, there can be no doubt as to the 
soundness of the decision, but she little guessed what that decision was 
to cos,t. 



ipo SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Education. It was hard to make bricks without straw. In 
America women doctors had proved, against heavy odds, 
that women doctors were wanted. Why not give them a 
fair field ? One heard on every side of the splendid advan- 
tages laid, so to speak, at the feet of men students at 
Harvard. 

Why should not women be admitted to Harvard ? 

Why not ask ? 

In April, 1867, the following correspondence was published 
in The Boston Daily Advertiser : 

" March nth. 1867. 
GENTLEMEN, 

Finding it impossible to obtain elsewhere in New England 
a thoroughly competent medical education, we hereby request 
permission to enter the Harvard Medical School on the same terms 
and under the same conditions as other students, there being, as 
we understand, no university statute to the contrary. 

On applying for tickets for the course, we were informed by the 
Dean of the Medical Faculty that he and his coadjutors were unable 
to grant them to us in consequence of some previous action taken 
by the corporation, to whom now therefore we make request to remove 
any such existing disability. In full faith in the words recently 
spoken with reference to the University of Harvard, ' American 
colleges are not cloisters for the education of a few persons, but 
seats of learning whose hospitable doors should be always open to 
every seeker after knowledge ' we place our petition in your hands 
and subscribe ourselves, 

Your obedient servants, 

SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE. 

SUSAN DiMOCK. 1 

To the President and Fellows of the University of Harvard." 

" Harvard University. April 8th. 1867. 
MY DEAR MADAM, 

After consultation with the faculty of the Medical College, 
the corporation direct me to inform you and Miss Dimock that there 
is no provision for the education of women in any department of 
this university. 

Neither the corporation nor the faculty wish to express any 
opinion as to the right or expediency of the medical education of 



1 Miss Susan Dimock was a student of great promise who afterwards 
completed her education at Zurich. She was lost at sea in the wreck 
of the steamer Schiller in May 1875. 



PIONEER WORK IN AMERICA 191 

women, but simply to state the fact that in our school no provision 
for that purpose has been made, or is at present contemplated. 

Very respectfully yours, 
Miss S. Jex-Blake." THOMAS HILL. 

A few days later the following paragraph appeared in The 
Advocate : 

" The Beginning of the End. A correspondence between the 
President and two lady applicants for admission to the Medical 
School was published some days since in the ' Boston Advertiser/ 
We understand that the friends of female education have no notion 
of resting satisfied with their first rebuff ; and that prominent 
Alumni of Boston are already taking measures for the prolonged 
agitation of the question." 

A month later S. J.-B. had obtained introductions to each 
of the professors in the Medical Faculty at Harvard, and to 
each member of the staff of the Massachusetts General Hospital 
and of the Eye and Ear Infirmary : as well as to many people 
of standing connected with these various institutions : and 
she now proceeded to canvass them systematically. In 
addition to a number of influential friends, she was ably 
supported by Miss Dimock. 

On the whole their reception was encouraging. The indi- 
vidual letters, indeed, are so favourable, that the hopes of 
the inexperienced young applicants must have run high. 
The following from Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes is typical of 
some half dozen at least : 

" I should not only be willing, but I should be much pleased, to 
lecture to any number of ladies for whom we can find accommodation 
in the anatomical lecture room, always provided that any special 
subject which seemed not adapted for an audience of both sexes 
should be delivered to the male students alone." 

Dr. Brown-Sequard is even more emphatic in a letter to 
Dr. Holmes : 

" MY DEAR PROFESSOR, 

Miss Blake, who will hand you this note, wishes me to say 
that I am strongly in favour of the admission of persons of her sex 
at the Medical College. As such is my decided opinion, I write 
very willingly. Very faithfully yours. 

Ci E. BROWN-SEQUARD." 



192 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

The corporation of Harvard, however, exerted its power to 
veto any such inclinations on the part of individual professors. 

S.J.-B. quotes the above and a number of similar letters 
in the diary, and adds the comment : 

" All which ends in ... smoke ! " 

There were always flashes of humour to temper the various 
disappointments. 

" Those wise men of Gotham at the Eye and Ear think it ' the 
kindest and most gentlemanly thing ' to shut us out after all ! " 

Dr. A. ' not afraid of responsibility, of course ' only he'd 
rather not admit us till other people do " ! 

Here is the official letter from the wise men of Gotham : 

" Massachusetts Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary. 

June 1 8th, 1867. 
DEAR MADAM, 

The surgeons of this Infirmary are, at the same time, members 
of the Massachusetts Medical Society, and are bound to respect the 
opinion of its Councillors. And in view of the recent action of that 
Board, we are of opinion that we cannot continue to allow female 
students to attend our cliniques. Ungracious as is the task, we 
therefore feel compelled to ask you to suspend your visits. 

We have no hesitation in adding that our intercourse with your- 
self and companions has been throughout most pleasant to us 

personally. 

Very truly yours, 

HASKET DERBY, 
Miss Sophia J ex-Blake." for the Surgeons. 

A certain amount of clinical teaching in the Massachusetts 
General Hospital the women did obtain, and for this they 
were duly grateful, though it only made them feel more 
keenly the deficiencies of their lecture- room and laboratory 
training. And, even in hospital, they walked with a constant 
sense of insecurity, as one member of the staff was keenly 
opposed to the presence of women, and was on the look-out 
for causes of offence. Little by little S.J.-B. began to feel 
the wlear and tear. 

" July 5th. Rest yesterday, but altogether weighed down yester- 
day and today with the fear and horror of this irritability which 
seems so fatally unconquerable," she writes in her diary. 

And one knows how terrible an enemy that irritability was. 



PIONEER WORK IN AMERICA 193 

Fortunately, a few weeks later, she and Dr. Sewall got away 
together for a holiday ; and this, apparently, was the first 
of the long series of driving-tours which were to prove the 
great joy and recreation of an arduous life. 

" Tuesday. July 3oth. Atlantic House, 

' Town of Wells,' Maine. 
DARLING MOTHER, 

As I have a spare hour, I may as well use it to chat a little 
to you about the oddities of our journey. 

I wrote to you from Newbury where we stayed one night at the 
Merrimac House, having slept the previous night at the Agawam 
House, Ipswich (!) both Indian names, of course. Yesterday we 
drove (as I told you at the end of my last letter) from Newbury port 
to Portsmouth, and were uncertain when I wrote whether to stay or 
go farther. It had been a hot day, but, after posting your letter, 
a violent rainstorm came up, deluging the streets for about 20 
minutes about 5^ p.m. 

After it was over, everything looked so cool and clear that Dr. 
Sewall was anxious to get on, though I was a little afraid of the 
heavy roads. So we set out soon after six, and had a most delicious 
drive at first. By-and-bye, however, we came to terribly wet clay 
roads and could only go at a walk. Our horse got tired and it 
began to get dark, and we found that the distance to go was even 
longer than we had been 'told. 

It's hard for you to understand the sort of society in these country 
places, no gentry and no peasantry almost all small farmers 
doing their own work and owning house and land, with some educa- 
tion but no polish. We stopped at two or three houses, scattered 
at wide intervals, and enquired for lodgings, but with no success 
till after dark when we got to a house belonging to a widow woman 
who informed us we could come in and have bed and food, but there 
was ' no one in the house but her, no one for the horse.' However, 
I was perfectly ready to act groom, so in we drove to such a queer 
loose sort of yard, where I unharnessed by very uncertain lantern 
light, and then the doctor and I had a tremendous job getting our 
phaeton into a queer coach-house up a sort of hillock ! 

Then the lantern led on to the ' barn,' which (here as usual) meant 
also stable, and soon I found myself plunging in the dark through 
soft masses which proved to be long wet grass, leading my horse by 
the halter. Then up among big loose stones, and up a step more 
than ij foot high into a barn so low that my horse all but hit his 
head. Then over some boards set edgewise to divide off stalls . . . the 
good woman being amazed at my venturing in ' with the horse ' ! 

Then a queer hunt in the half darkness for a pail for water and 

N 



194 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

wooden box foi Indian meal (which, stirred with water, often replaces 
oats here), and then to bed, tired enough ! 

This morning I groomed the horse, and, so doing, found a stone 
in his foot, fed him, and we between us washed the carriage. You 
may tell Daddy I had no idea what hard work it was before ! We 
washed a long while at it, and somehow it wouldn't look quite clean 
at last. 

(N.B. Why will water dry muddy on to a carriage ?) 

Then we drove on again some distance and found a place for 
dinner, one of the big boarding-houses like what I was in at Comp- 
ton, and then on again. Dr. Sewall began to get tired when we 
were still 5 or 6 miles from our next point, Kennebunk, and seeing 
a notice on a bye-road, ' Atlantic House f mile ' we drove down, 
found a charming inn almost on the sands, close to the Atlantic, 
fresh and bright and airy, and settled here for the night. If you only 
knew what my afflictions are in American country inns, I have 
hardly seen decent food in one since I left Boston you may 
imagine my satisfaction at getting here the best supper I have had 
yet, excellent fresh fish, lobsters, etc., and currants, and nice 
bread, and milk. Altogether the best table we've found yet. 

It sounds natural, too, to hear the roar of the Atlantic as I write, 
only it seems sometimes to murmur, ' Over the sea ! ' 

But then it always makes me feel nearer home to see the actual 
watei. which is the only thing between us, of which you at Brighton 
see but another part. 

Wednesday. . . . We have spent the day quietly here, and shall 
very likely drive to Portland in one day tomorrow, 30 miles is not 
much for a rested horse. He has not been out today, except for a 
short drive on the broad smooth sands which stretch for miles here. 

It is deliciously cool here by the ocean, Dr. Sewall says ' cold,' 
and borrows my old blue jacket. 

It is very pleasant and restful after Boston. If Portland is hot, 
we may return here for a few days on our way back. 

Goodbye, darling. Yours lovingly, 

SOPH. 

" Atlantic House, 

, August qth. 1867. 

DARLING MOTHER, 

Here we are staying again on the very verge of the Atlantic, 
having found Portland more gay than restful, and desiring some 
perfect quiet before we get home again. 

Your letter of July 25th has been forwarded to me with a long 
one from' Carry, and one from an old schoolfellow of mine who had 
seen and liked my book, and so bethought herself to write to^me 
and say so. She is a governess now. 



PIONEER WORK IN AMERICA 195 

I should like to see that review in the Pall Mall, perhaps some 
of you will send it to me, and any others of which you hear. . . . 

" August i ith. Sunday evening. We have been spending the 
afternoon ' camping out ' in the midst of some woods (Haywards 
Heath fashion) letting our horse graze and enjoying the cool and 
quiet. We have one more day here and then go on towards home, 
and expect to get there on Friday. Soon after in September 
probably we shall make another attempt, aided by Mr. Loring, 
and, I hope, by Prof. Rogers (have you seen him ?) to get into 
Harvard or to get some advantages out of them ; and I suppose 
on our success will depend a good deal what we do in the winter. . . . 

The Doctor begs me to send her love. I do hope you may know 
her by this time next year. Don't you ? 

Love to all. Tell Carry I'll write soon in answer to hers. 

Yours lovingly, SOPH." 

" I think what you say is true about the difficulties of ' Joint 
Education ' in England," she writes to her brother in answer to a 
criticism of her book. " Myself, I care very little about it if both 
sexes can somehow get all the education they want or wish for." 

There is little record of the winter's work, though the 
following rough draft in S.J.-B.'s handwriting of an appeal 
to Harvard has been preserved : 

" Jan. 1868. 

GENTLEMEN, 

Having during the past year been granted access to the 
clinical advantages of the Massachusetts General* Hospital, but 
finding it impossible anywhere in New England to obtain adequate 
theoretical instruction in Medicine, we now earnestly entreat you to 
reconsider the subject of the admission of women to the lectures at 
Harvard Medical School, such admission being, as we understand, 
forbidden by no past or present statute of the University. 

We do not wish "to enter on the vexed question of the capability 
or non-capability of women for the practice of Medicine, as we 
believe that time and experience only can furnish its true answer, 
but we now present our urgent petition that some opportunity may 
be afforded us for the thorough study of the medical science and 
art, that we may be granced at least some of the advantages that 
are not denied to every man, and allowed to show whether we are 
or are not worthy to make use of them. 

We are willing, Gentlemen, to submit to any required examination, 
to qualify ourselves according to any given standard, to furnish any 
personal references, and to abide by any restrictions and regulations 
which may seem proper to the Corporation or to the Faculty. 



I 9 6 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Several of the Professors having expressed their personal willing- 
ness to allow us to attend their lectures, we earnestly request that 
the Corporation will authorize our admission to those classes into 
which the respective Professors do not object to receive us, and that, 
in any case where the Professors does so object, we may be allowed 
to receive private instruction from some medical gentleman approved 
by the Faculty, whose lectures shall in our case be held equivalent 
to those given to the College classes in the same subject." 

" Fighting on for Harvard with a sort of dull persistency," she 
records in her diary in March 1868, " expecting another answer 
from the Corporation on the nth. 

Well, having been in Mass. Hospital for 8 months is something. 
With all my dull atheism, I do believe somehow the Best will be, 
if not this, another. ' And so far have brought me to put me 
to shame ' ? " 

Many entries in the diary about this time prove that she 
was passing through that veritable " dark night of the soul " 
that has lain in the path of so many bright spirits of her 
generation. 

" I suppose it isn't till the whole world and oneself breaks away 
under one that one does know what rubbish one is made of, ' dust 
and ashes. . . . And what fine things I started with ! Sir Launfal 1 
and gilded armour, etc. To conquer all the giants and beam Christian 
charity everywhere. 

I believe old folks do ' know young folks to be fools.' 
A nice result at near 28 Chaos ! with a possible sawbones in 
future ! " 

" Jan. 2ist. 1868. ' Quid sum miser tune dicturus ' ! 
Eight and twenty ! ' and a sinner ! ' ' 

One must bear in mind always, of course, that a diary is 
apt to reflect the graver side of a character, the side that 
associates, and even friends, would scarcely guess at. Certainly 
the letters to " the dear old folks " bear small witness to this 
stress and strain. They recount all sorts of innocent adven- 
tures and happy doings which were quite as real one is glad 
to believe as the strong crying and tears of the night watches. 



1 Some few intimate friends will recall the evenings, 30 or 40 years 
later, round the study fire at Windydene, when the white-haired woman 
would recite Sir Launfal from beginning to end with a subdued enthusiasm, 
that was more expressive than pages of commentary. 



PIONEER WORK IN AMERICA 197 

"13 Pleasant Street, 
Boston, U.S. 

Monday, Jan. 27th. 68. 
DARLING MOTHER 

Such a sieigh ride as we had yesterday I hope you'll never 
have, and indeed I don't cara about repeating the dose myself ! 
I drove the doctor eight or nine miles in a pelting snow-storm, partly 
across open country, long bridges and marshes, etc., the thermometer 
somewhere about 10 or 15, a good deal of wind, which always 
makes it feel much colder, and the sharp crystals of snow cutting 
into our faces and eyes like so many pin points and causing actual 
pain. Towards the end I found it rather hard to see, some white 
things seemed to get in front of my eyes ; what do you think they 
were ? Solid icicles hanging from all my eye-lashes on the side 
exposed to the wind, frozen together into three or four solid little 
balls as big as small peas, and partly freezing the lids together ! 
When I got in I called Eliza to see them, you should have heard 
her ' Gracious goodness ! ' 

Even sealskin gloves fail one in such storm'y cold, one's hands 
freeze and have to be thawed out as regards sensation several times 
in a drive ! So we carry hot bottles to do it with, and Dr. Sewall 
laughed at the figure I cut yesterday, driving with one hand, the 
other grasping a big two-quart bottle upright on my lap, and my 
head bent on one side like a lapwing's to see out of the one eye that 
wasn't frozen up ! 

She herself offered to drive again and again, but speed was my 
object, and I always make the horse go half as fast again as she does. 
He did gallantly yesterday, the roads and streets were clear, and 
we spun over the white frozen surface at eight or ten miles an hour. 

When it is not actually snowing, sleighing is very exhilarating, 
the horse has a light load and is generally in good spirits, sleigh- 
bells jangling merrily, etc." 

" March 6th. 

... A few days ago one of the women who had been confined 
here was fetched home by her husband, and with him came a rather 
big dog of the setter or lurcher kind, I think, or rather a cross on 
one of them. The folks went away, and so did the dog, but in half 
an hour he was back again, scratching at the Hospital door. He 
was fetched again by the man and again ran back, no one having, 
so far as I know, petted or enticed him at all. Then he was refused 
admission or turned out on the street, and when his master came 
again for him I believe he found him on the street ; but in the evening 
there came a scratching at our hall door not the Hospital, and in 
walked the same dog again ! I knew nothing of the previous story, 
but remembered having seen him with the man who came to our 



198 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

house to see Dr. Sewall, so I took him in. From that moment he 
attached himself to me, so that he follows every step I take, and 
whines at any door I enter without him. As the man didn't come 
again for him, I drove to his house this morning, the dog following 
close to the sleigh all the way (some two miles), and when he got 
there the dog greeted his master certainly, but directly I rose to go, 
up he jumped after me. So, as his choice seemed to be made, I 
offered the man $5 (155. 6d.) for him, and now am undisputed owner 
of my loyal friend ! 

It is rather queer, for I had been wishing for a dog of my own, 
and, though he is not a great beauty, he has a nice face, is very 
obedient, clean, and, I think, intelligent, though Dr. Sewall pro- 
fesses to disdain him for being ' so big ' I and then one can't help 
liking even a dog who so plainly declares ' elective affinity.' " 1 

In the midst of all these new interests she had not forgotten 
the question of education at Bettws-y-Coed, and she was 
deeply interested in the maturing plans for a new school 
there. She writes to her Mother : 

" I am glad to understand that you have bought, not the first 
bit of ground, but another near it. I hope Carry will soon send me 
some idea of her plans, though, of course, we can't build for some 
months. I enclose a very rough sketch of what would be my own 
idea of a schoolroom with gallery at one end and with classroom at 
the other, and besides the class room a sort of lobby with second 
entrance and with stairs leading to the rooms above for Anne. The 
porch to have places to hang hats, etc., as also under the gallery 
(as at Hastings). 

I can't remember about dimensions, though I have a sort of idea 
that, when we spoke of building before, we planned our schoolroom 
at 1 8 ft. by 28, and 10 ft. or n ft. high, the class room to be perhaps 
II ft. by 8. 

Ask Carry to see how that agrees with the standard space for 
100 children." 

The school was actually built in 1869, everything being 
done in a fashion characteristic of the Jex-Blake family. 
They gave what was needed, but not in such a spirit as to 
discourage the generosity of others. The landlord gave the 
site for a purely nominal rent, together with permission to 
take what stone was needed from a neighbouring quarry. 
Farmers and others did the carting for love. For years the 

1 The dog was named Turk, and became a devoted friend. 



PIONEER WORK IN AMERICA 199 

Jex-Blakes had been educating a competent girl a former 
pupil as mistress. Local sympathy and appreciation, com- 
bined with the persevering interest of the founders, were the 
very life-blood of the school. How much finer this than the 
building of an ornamental edifice that should hand down the 
name of the donor to future generations. 

In March 1868 S.J.-B. gave up Boston in despair for the 
moment, and went to New York, where she had the support 
of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and her sister Emily, both of 
whom had plans for the more adequate medical education 
of women, and were organizing special classes. S. J.-B. also 
persuaded the Head Demonstrator of Anatomy at Bellevue 
to give her and another woman student a course of private 
lessons in Dissecting and Practical Anatomy. 

" March 28th. Saturday. Began dissecting with Dr. Moseley. . . . 
oh, dear, isn't it good to have some real teaching at last ! 

By-the-bye, the Blackwells think they could get us into Bellevue 
if Harvard refuses. New York for 3 winters ? Shall I bring Alice 
or what ? They want English ladies to come and make a class, and 
offer to receive them into the Infirmary. (But English ladies are 
not given to dine in kitchens on poor kitchen fare, etc.) 

Is my old idea ever to work out by O. H. studying medicine ? 
Wouldn't she be a good doctor ! 

By-the-bye, challenged by the Blackwells as ' to whose manage- 
ment (in re English Female University) would inspire me with 1000 
confidence,' I say, O. H., Miss M., etc." 

She wrote delightful long letters to Dr. Sewall about the 
minutiae of her work, and was somewhat concerned as to how 
the little Boston world was getting on without her. 

" I am glad that you find out (as I told you you would) that I did 
do one or two little things while you wondered how I spent my 
time. I wish, however, that you had someone to do them now,- 
I am afraid you will get so tired. I shall ask Eliza if you eat properly. 
Tell her that I mean to write to her next time. 

The little book of your bills is on my shelf in my secretary, a 
small account book. Don't muddle the things in looking for it. 
Be sure and put down in it all the bills you send out. Can't you 
get Miss Call to write them for you ? She really can write (unusual 
in the N.E.H.) . . . 



200 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Tell me if Eliza does nicely, tell her I asked after her and her 
housekeeping and Robert. 

I am glad that my son Turk behaves better as he grows older. 
Give him an extra bone with my blessing." 

To her Mother she writes a long account of her difficulty 
in finding rooms at a reasonable price. 

" So living in New York is neither easy nor cheap, you see, ... I 
hardly know how I shall manage if I go to a medical college this 
winter, and have to pay all lecture expenses, etc., besides living, 
for women have to incur extra expense in all sorts of ways, because 
they can't share the arrangements of some sorts made for men. . . . 

.... while studying, Miss Garrett had, I know, to spend lots of 
money, paying 50 for a single course of lectures which the men got 
(in class) for 5 each. 

When there was an idea of my taking the Manchester College, 
Daddy was willing to advance me 1000 or 2000 for the start, 
instead of part of the income he allowed me ; do you think he would 
be willing to do some such thing now ? I suppose it is hard for you 
at home who don't realize exactly the hard battle we are fighting 
(especially to get into the good medical colleges) to see how very 
important it is not to be stopped from seizing every bit of advantage 
obtainable for want of money. And it unfortunately happens that 
most of the women who are studying Medicine really cannot get 
money even when most necessary. 

When I began I had no idea of going into any of this, but some- 
how one gets talking to Mother of what is uppermost in one's mind 
sometimes. 

And I know Mother wants to hear all my bothers and perplexities. 

Much love, darling, to Daddy and Carry. 

Yours lovingly, 

SOPH." 

" April 12th. Notwithstanding all the discomforts in the way 
of board, I have been gaining greatly by my stay here. I have had 
a better opportunity for dissecting, etc., than ever before, and besides 
have learnt a good deal at the daily medical lessons which take 
place at Dr. Blackwell's every afternoon. If I am to be a doctor 
at all, I mean to be a thoroughly good one, and now that I have 
gone so far in medical study, I mean to go right through, unless some 
very unforeseen obstacle comes. And then the future may decide 
what use my knowledge may come to. I sometimes think that a 
woman doctor could find very useful work in teaching Anatomy 
and Physiology, or at least something of them to women and 
girls, who are apt to be so terribly ignorant of them. 



PIONEER WORK IN AMERICA 201 

Lately I have been spending an hour or so of an evening (for rest) 
in hearing a nice ' daughter of the house ' read French to me, she 
having very few chances of help, poor child." 

On the eve of sailing for England, she sums up the situation 
in her diary with her usual relentless truthfulness : 

" April nth. . . . Within three weeks of leaving for home, what 
balance sheet ? 

Nearly three years in America. 

In that time complete health regained, probably better than 
ever before, real strength and power of study. A profession 
opening calmly and clearly before me, its sciences already ' as 
trees walking,' becoming clearer daily. The edge of pain all gone. 
But with it vivid faith and life in many directions belief in all 
invisible and much reaching after the heroic. A sort of passive 
' quo fata vocant,' a sort of ceasing to demand the very good or 
very true, perhaps, a sort of coldbloodedness that is not peace, 
a nil admirari that only ' will do for it.' My vocation given up or 
laid aside, and I quietly learning knowledge chiefly because it is 
power, hardly yet shaping out any end ; but what does come, 
selfish enough. Professor of Anatomy ? Surgeon ? Doctor-Teacher ? 

Sometimes a sharp pain rushes across, ' Ah, if Mother shouldn't 
live to see me succeed ! ' She does seem woven in with the heart- 
strings,- my old darling who cannot forget. 

All this health and new life more than ever hoped for comes 
mediately from L.E.S." 

If this estimate of herself is just, one can only say that the 
lulling for the time of her higher emotional nature was pro- 
bably a blessing in disguise. It helped her to make her 
foundation of knowledge sure. She had in her measure to 
learn what every true scientist must learn that " the 
natural is the rational and the divine," that "there is no 
real break between the natural and the supernatural." 

" A man that looks on glass, 
On it may stay his eye 

and if his eye be single his whole body may yet be full of 
light. 

In any case the closing words of S. J.-B.'s ' balance sheet ' 
are significant enough, 

" Games mediately from L.E.S." ! 



CHAPTER XVI 
GOING HOME 

IT was in the course of this summer of 1868 that S. J.-B. 
realized her earnest wish to welcome her friend Dr. Lucy 
Sewall in England. She had raised great expectations among 
her friends, but, notwithstanding this, the visitor's sweetness 
and grace won all hearts. " That woman is fit to be the 
apostle of a great movement," Dr. T. W. Jex-Blake had said 
when he first saw her photograph, " with a face at once so 
strong and so tender." And a closer acquaintance only 
served to confirm this judgment. 

It is impossible to exaggerate the pride with which S. J.-B. 
took " the Doctor " everywhere, in a world that knew not 
the " sweet girl graduate " of the present day, and showed 
her off for choice in a pretty pale -blue frock with secret 
triumph to the friends who were expecting something very 
masculine and aggressive. Quite a number of sick people 
Mrs. Unwin among the number were eagerly waiting to 
consult her : and many were the requests that she would 
come and settle in England. 

What Mr. Jex-Blake thought of her may be gathered from 
the following most characteristic note written a month or 
two later to his daughter : 

"13 Sussex Square, 
Brighton. 

2nd August 1868. 
DEAREST, 

It is so much in my head and heart, and in the dear Mother's, 
to have the privilege of presenting your most valued friend with some 



GOING HOME 203 

memento of her visit, that I beg you to use all your influence, and 
entreat Dr. Lucy Sewall to accept a carriage, or any other thing 
that she would value, as a remembrance of your dear Mother and 
myself, when she has returned home. She can little imagine how 
much she would please us both by doing so. 

Your affectionate Father, 

T. JEX-BLAKE." 

Two other happenings specially marked the holiday, a 
visit from Mrs. Jenkinson (Mrs. Ballantyne), and a delight- 
ful rapprochement between S. J.-B. and her Father. 

Of Mrs. Jenkinson she writes in her diary : 

" So good, so fascinating and dainty ! I haven't had so much 
wide and deep talk with anyone for three years at least. . . . 

The proposal of her driving them to church ending in my doing 
so. Somehow the service moved me greatly. ' Gethsemane, can 
I forget,' etc. . . . 

' What is truth ? ' no jesting Pilate, yet do I stay for an 
answer ? Oh, dear, the certainties of p. [181], etc., and now ! Yet I 
think the wheel is beginning to sway upwards again. Please God ! 
Yes, surely the Ephesians stretched wise earnest hands (or may 
have done) to the Unknown God. ' Strenuous souls ... to stand in 
the dark on the lowest stair.' " 

" May 3 1 st. Wonderful how content everyone is with my medical 
prospects. Daddy decides our residence (!) for Mount Street, 
Grosvenor Square. I say now pretty definitely, in 4 more years 
England, three years study, and one of practice. 

Meanwhile a quiet satisfactory holiday must have. No one can 
tell how many more with the old folks, and this must be what will 
be good to remember." 

" June 2oth. Maurice's lecture. ' Miss Jex-Blake's investigations 
in America might help much to the solution of the problem ' [of mixed 
education, presumably]. And after the lecture he thanked me for 
my book. 7'm cock a hoop now ! " 

" June 24th. On the whole my resolve well kept till now, 
one month's success in no (or few and light) ' cataracts and breaks.' 
Somehow I have a solemn sort of feeling about it this year, as if it 
would be the last with one or other." 

"Ah, darling," she writes to her Mother on the voyage, " it was 
such hard work to say Goodbye last week ! Do you know for one 
little minute I wondered whether after all the price wasn't too hard 
to pay, and whether after all I shouldn't give up doctor, hospital, 
M.D. and all and just stay with the old Mother. 



204 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

" Sept. 2gth. Boston. I am sorry to say that Harvard has refused 
me again, so I must go to New York ! Ah, well, ' all things are 
less dreadful than they seem ' ! " 

In that autumn of 1868 the Blackwells carried out their 
project of starting a medical school for women in New York. 

Two class-tickets are extant admitting Miss S. L. Jex-Blake 
to the classes of Practical Anatomy and of the Principles and 
Practice of Medicine at the Women's Medical College of the 
New York Infirmary ; and there is also a letter from Dr. 
Elizabeth Blackwell giving advice about rooms : 

" With regard to your winter's work, we will discuss it when you 
come. We shall be glad to meet your views in any way we can. 

There are other matters connected with the school itself we shall 
be glad to talk over with you, one in particular, which I think would 
interest you, and in which, from your exceptional position in the 
class, I think you could help us in our organisation ; but I shall 
leave its discussion till you come. 

I hope you will allow time to get thoroughly settled and through 
with the trouble of it before November." 

" Oct. 23rd. Friday. Came to New York. . . . Went 137 Avenue 
for a week to hunt for rooms, oh, dear ! . . . At length decided 
on 222 East Tenth [Street] two back parlours and two above, 
gas and all $55. Alice arrived on Monday 26th." 

" 222 East icth Street, 

New York. Nov. ist. 68. 
DARLING MOTHER, 

The term begins tomorrow, and I am glad to say that Alice 
and I have just succeeded in getting things into some sort of order 
in time. Besides laying down carpets, buying a stove and kitchen 
pots and pans, a bedstead and chairs, etc., I have been providing 
winter stores in American fashion, and yesterday bought two barrels 
of potatoes, 30 Ibs. of butter, etc. etc., to say nothing of flour and 
wine. My money is running terribly low, I have only about 20 
left when this month's rent is paid ; but then most of my things 
are bought now, and besides I can borrow from Dr. Sewall if needful. 
Besides the Hospital owes me about 10 or 11 for duties paid, so 
I can probably get on till my next quarter comes. . . . 

I know Mother will be thinking of me on my own hook in New 
York. This last week has been a pretty hard time, but now things 
are falling into shape. Alice has been invaluable. I know that 
having her, with the proper food, will just make all the difference to 
me of being able to work on all winter without breaking down. The 



GOING HOME 205 

Blackwells are very pleasant, and, though I have no special friends 
here, I shall be so busy and cosy that I expect to get on capitally. 

I am afraid the poor little Doctor gets the worst of it, she will 
really miss my help in many ways, besides mutual loss of company, 
and I am sadly afraid she won't take due care of herself. I can't 
tell you and Daddy how thankful I am that he has given her that 
charming little carriage, it is such a relief to my mind to know 
that she will not be forced to drive herself when weary and half 
frozen : and I believe it will make a real difference in her health. 

Her Father was very pleased with it, though I believe he made 
very careful enquiries as to whether the Doctor was sure Daddy 
' could afford to give her such a splendid present.' Of course he 
didn't ask me that, but I took an opportunity of telling him that I 
knew you both felt that the carriage represented only a small part 
of your feeling of real gratitude to her for all the good she has done 
me medically and otherwise. Wasn't I right ? . . . 

" DARLING MOTHER, I wrote the two other sheets on purpose 
that you may pass them on to Daddy, and I mean to try to do so 
as much as I can, and put anything private on a separate bit for you, 
for I think the dear old man really likes to see my letters, and I am 
sure I want to give him all the pleasure I can. 

His Goodbye was so very kind and loving, I often think of it." 

" Nov. 3rd. 

Yesterday was the opening of our College, at which Dr. Elizabeth 
Blackwell made a speech which I was asked to report for the chief 
medical paper here. I have done so, and will send you the paragraph 
when it appears. . . . 

My rooms are not far from the College and other places where I 
have to go daily, and altogether I may consider myself well off. 
I have managed to buy as little furniture as possible, having brought 
carpets from Boston, and having hired two tables, a bed and a stove, 
from the landlady here. I have not yet bought more than 12 
worth, and I mean to try to get on with as little more as possible. 

I am very glad to hear of Miss Garrett's good news. I shall send 
her note on to the Doctor. I know it will please her so much." 

"222 East xoth Street. 

New York. Nov. 8th. 68. 
DARLING MOTHER, 

I enclose two letters which you can read and forward respect- 
tively to ' Mr. H. 69 Jermyn Street, S.W.' and to ' Sam. Laurence, 
Esq. 6 Wells Street, W.' Don't transpose them ! 

I have now got fairly settled in my new abode, and am really 
very comfortable in it, thanks to Alice. Our rooms are so situated 



206 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

that we can keep quite to ourselves, having even a back staircase 
almost of our own, and we get on famously. My daily routine 
is pretty regular throughout the week. I go to the dissecting room 
at 9 a.m. and work till about 11.15. At 11.30 comes a lecture on 
Anatomy and Physiology on alternate days, and I get home to 
lunch a little before one. Alice always has things ready and nice 
for me, and I rest for about half an hour after lunch, before going 
to the afternoon lectures which begin at 2 p.m. and continue (except 
on Saturday) till 5, three lectures of an hour each. I have just 
put in a petition to Dr. Emily Blackwell (who manages everything 
and is very nice) for five minutes space between each two lectures, 
for opening windows and a walk up and down the corridors, to 
which she instantly assented as desirable. 

Pleasant as it was to live with the Doctor, and extremely grateful 
as I feel for the very great good she has done me, I confess now to 
rather enjoying a completely independent nest once more, for a 
while at least. You see it was inevitable that at Boston everything 
had to be shaped to suit Hospital work, and that was sometimes a 
nuisance. 

I can study and write and read in a much more thoroughly undis- 
turbed way here than I could there, in fact it would have been 
simply impossible while living there to work as I am doing now, 
there were so very many inevitable interruptions. 

And yet, but for my two years there, I never could have been 
strong enough for my work here, I believe that I never was so 
strong in my life before isn't that grand ? " 

" 222 East zoth Street, 
Nov. 1 3th. 1868. 

DARLING MOTHER, 

Yesterday your letter (containing the one from the Times 
agent) was brought to me in the dissecting-room, and wasn't I 
pleased to get it ! ... It is quaint sometimes to think of the 
different scenes in which letters are written and read ! I am really 
very much grieved to hear of Daddy's having been so ill, I did 
not undei stand fully before how serious his attack had been. I 
comfort myself, however, with hoping that while the news is coming 
heie, he is really getting better daily. Give him much love from 
me and a big kiss on each cheek. ... I hope my old lady takes 
care of herself. Do for my sake. 

Darling, I ought sooner to have answered your enquiries about 
the Colleges, etc. Harvard (Boston) is a University for men, and 
we couldn't get in there, because they wouldn't have any women. 
I was anxious to go there because the degree is considered a valuable 
one. Here in New York the College I am at is just opened by Dr. 



GOING HOME 207 

Elizabeth Blackwell for women only, or at least only women 
attend it, though I believe men would be admitted. C. 

The teachers are 9 in number, 7 men and 2 women professors, 
as you will see by the circular. In the actual classes we are all 
women students ; in going to hospitals, dispensaries, etc., we mix 
with the men. The teaching is really very good and I am getting 
on capitally. 

Capitally in every way indeed. . . . 

I see it is now a little past nine, and I shall soon be off to bed and 
sleep like a top till about 6 a.m. 

I have never worked so hard in my life (for a continuance), and I 
have never been in such good health. I am absolutely well, (and 
what a blessing that is after all these years !) I eat and walk and 
sleep perfectly, have no pains and aches, and the sweetest of tempers ! 

I only wish Mother could peep in and see me in my little den ! 
dog and Alice and all. 

With very much love, darling, to Daddy and Carry, 

Yours lovingly, 

SOPH." 

"Saturday. Nov. 1 4th. [Diary.] In sober fact I get on grandly. 
Better and stronger than I have ever been." 

" Monday, Nov. i6th. Oh, why, why didn't they telegraph at 
any rate ? If people only would do as they are asked ! Carry's 
note just come after Chemistry. ' I believe if you could start from 
New York today, you would have no prospect whatever of seeing 
him alive '." 

" Sunday, Nov. 29th. Brighton. Reached home about 10.30 
a.m. yesterday (after a rush through Dublin, Cork, etc.) to find that 
he had died ten days even before that letter arrived. Nov. 6th. 
9.50 a.m." 

It seems a pity for her own sake that S. J.-B. could not 
have been with her Father during those last days of his life r 
for his was certainly one of the cases in which 

" The soul's dark cottage, battered and decayed, 
Lets in new light through chinks that Time has made." 

It is no very uncommon experience to see people go through 
their last illness without a word of complaint, but Mr. Jex- 
Blake rose to a higher level than that. He had felt the end 
approaching for some months, and had set his house in perfect 
order, even to the refinement of writing farewell letters 
beautiful letters they are to be delivered to those nearest 



208 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

him after he had left them. There was nothing now to be 
done save to gather himself together for the great ordination 
of death. " I suppose this is about as bad as can be," he 
said to the surgeon who attended him. " Nothing more 
can be done, I take it." 

One complaint he did make in the early days of his illness, 
that he " could not collect his thoughts to pray," he whose 
" whole life," in the words of his son, " had been a prayer 
and thanksgiving." It was a great joy and comfort to 
have that son at hand. " I am very happy, very comfort- 
able," he said. " You cannot tell how happy I am. . . . God 
is so good to me." 

When the end drew near, he wanted to be lifted out of bed, 
but they dared not move him, except as to pillows. About 
11.30 Mr. H. [the surgeon] moved him a little in bed, and he 
said, " Beautiful, beautiful," and never spoke again. 

One can imagine the feelings with which his ardent wayward 
" youngest little one " arrived in England to hear all this, 
and to hear it through the transfiguring medium of bereaved 
affection. With passionate intensity she recalls every detail 
of the parting which had so lingered in her mind, and which 
had proved to be the last : 

" He had not risen. I went and lay on the bed by him and kissed 
him, and he told me how they had enjoyed having me, ' never had 
so pleasant a summer together,' etc. 

I said I had tried hard and yet I hadn't fully succeeded. I was 
sorry I had been cross sometimes. ' No, no,' he said, stopping me, 
' I hadn't failed, there was nothing to forgive.' And then I told 
him I would try and do them credit in my profession, and then he 
took my hands in his and prayed for me. And then I kissed him 
again and got off the bed, but he (very unlike him) sprang out after 
me and embraced me again and again, and so we parted very 
lovingly, I telling him, I think, that ' next time ' it should be all 
right. And so, please God, it shall, if there is a God and a ' next 
time ' ! " 

In the darkest hour she admitted that it might have been 
worse : it might have been her Mother who was taken. One 
could almost have foretold how she would act. Cancelling 



GOING HOME 209 

the golden prospects in America with a stroke of her pen, 
cheerfully sacrificing the very considerable financial outlay, 
the class fees, the " snug little nest," and " two barrels of 
potatoes," she resolved that never again should the Atlantic 
divide her from the life that was most dear. 

It was not easy for Dr. Sewall to let her go thus finally, 
and her first letters are not a little pathetic, but born friend 
of heroes as she was she helped to fasten the armour on. 

" If you don't come back to America," she said, " you won't 
give up the work. You will open the profession to women in 
England." 

And so it came about that Sophia Jex-Blake sought a 
medical education in her native land. 



PART II 



IT is as hard a thing to maintain a sound understanding, a tender 
conscience, a lively, gracious, heavenly frame of spirit, and an 
upright life, amid contention, as it is to keep your candle lighted 
in the greatest storms. RICHARD BAXTER. 



INDIVIDUALS, feeling strongly, while on the one hand they are 
incidentally faulty in mode or language, are still peculiarly 
effective. No great work was done by a system ; whereas 
systems rise out of individual exertions. Luther was an in- 
dividual. The very faults of an individual excite attention ; 
he loses, but his cause (if good, and he powerful-minded) gains. 
This is the way of things ;" we promote truth by a self-sacrifice. 

JOHN HENRY NEWMAN. 



CHAPTER I 
DRIFTING 

S.J.-B. landed at Queenstown on November 27th, 1868, and 
" came rushing through Cork, Dublin and Holyhead on that 
weary 24 hours' journey " back to the home in Brighton, 
to find that she had arrived too late. Her Father had died 
some three weeks before, and outwardly the household had 
already settled down to the old life as households do in 
a way that to her ardent nature must at first have seemed 
passing strange. There was the joy and pain of meeting her 
Mo'ther again, the joy and pain of finding that that Mother 
was too fine a Christian to be broken-hearted at the prospect 
of so brief a parting, and then, little by little, there came 
for S.J.-B. the realization of all she had left behind. 
On board the Java she had written to Dr. Sewall : 

" The first thing of all I want to do is to write and tell you what 
I said so very imperfectly in my hurry and worry when you left, 
how much your kind thought for me in arranging even the little 
things of my cabin has touched me. . . . Even now when I am going 
home and going under such circumstances the thought of all you 
have done for me and of all I owe you, comes uppermost. . . . 

Mrs. Browning says, 

' God gives what he gives be content. 
He resumes nothing given, be sure,' 

and your love and help have been given to me, and I know it is not 
all over now. . . . 

I am going home now to try and be a child once more, simply 
to love and serve my Mother, as God will help me (for I do believe 
in Him in my pain and my love in my heart of hearts) and I believe 
that by being a child I shall learn to grow a better woman." 



214 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Such was her resolve, and for months she struggled hard 
to carry it out, with no small success when one considers the 
complexity of the elements involved. She had come from 
a busy bustling beneficent life, with an outlook that appealed 
keenly to her energetic and ambitious nature, and she found 
herself in the quiet, smoothly-ordered home of her childhood, 
where she was only " Miss Sophy," where her medical books 
and microscope slides were roughly classified as " nasty," 
and where she was expected to conform to a rule of life which 
had never given scope to her possibilities, and was little likely 
to do so now that all its music was set in a minor key. The 
free life in America had developed her capabilities ; quite 
possibly it had also rubbed off some few of those superficial 
elegancies that were regarded as a primary essential in the 
Englishwoman of her class. 

There was another side to the question too. Glad as Mrs. 
Jex-Blake always was to see her " youngest little one " again, 
one can imagine that in the circumstances so electrical a 
presence in the house was not an unmixed boon. " I had 
much rather know you well and happy there [in Boston] 
than see you ill and know you worried here," the Mother had 
written years before, and there is no reason to think that her 
feeling in the matter had changed. Nothing could alter the 
deep undercurrent of love and understanding between this 
Mother and child, but neither of them had a naturally equable 
temperament, and one gathers that on the surface things 
were not always smooth. 

"Poor little woman," S. J.-B. writes to Dr. Sewall, on receipt 
of the first letter from Boston, "I do feel so sorry for you all 
alone and dreary, but don't you think I am even worse off 
than you are ? You can fancy what this house is now, so silent 
and mourning, and so much cut off even from outside, and at 
any rate no people or work or occupation of any interest outside 
ourselves. 

M. and C. have their regular ways and plans, 1 suppose, but it is 
so long since I have been at home except for a visit, that it's hard 
for me to fit in anywhere, and of course everybody's feeling more or 
less sad and pained doesn't make matters smoother. Just at 
present I am getting my books and drawers, etc., to rights, and after 
that is done I mean to try and read some Medicine at least, perhaps 



DRIFTING 215 

ii we stay here all winter I may apply to visit at the Hospital, etc. 
only it would be rather disagreeable all alone. 

Oh, Lucy dear, I do think it's too bad to be expected to go oa 
with Medicine, and not have you to help and interest me in it. If 
I didn't believe you would after all come and start me in practice 
when I do get through, I don't think I should have any heart to go 
on at all. But we will be together again some day, old lady, won't 
we ? Oh, dear, I am getting so tired of living and fighting and 
hoping ! As soon as one hopes one has got a little foothold it is all 
knocked away from under one ! " 

The letter then plunges into the question of money and 
accounts, which were not Dr. Sewall's strong point. 

| 

" Poor little girl ! she has so many accounts, and I am dreadfully 
afraid she will get into a dreadful mess with them all ! Do tell me 
if you got your accounts anything like straight after New York." 

Dr. Sewall was overwhelmed with work, but her letters 
came as fast and frequently as mails could bring them. " I 
do hope you do not miss me as much as I miss you," she 
wrote, and again : 

" I do hope this New Year that begins so sadly may not be a very 
hard one for you, though I fear you will have to fight hard before 
you can settle down at home. Do try to get some visiting at the 
Hospital or some medical work as soon as you can. It will do you 
good and your Mother too." 

But she too, when it comes to a question of " business," 
relapses delightfully into the child. " Do say you are con- 
tented with me, and that I have done well." 

For three weeks S. J.-B. drifted, uncertain of her course, 
and then she set her sail. 

" Today after three weeks of doubt, indecision and rather 
negation I was suddenly inspired to get up out of the dining-room 
arm-chair, walk to the Hospital, and ask Mr. Salzmann to read 
Medicine with me, so Thursday and seq. Histology ! 

It's quite odd how pleased I am at the prospect of ' shop ' ! " 

On the last night of the year, as was her wont, she made 
her summing-up : 

" Within a few hours of eight years ago, the window, and 
' May the New Year cherish ' 



2i6 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

I don't think there are any ' hopes that now are bright.' I 
believe I have been growing downwards in some ways. The simply 
quiet and comfortable, with no bother of any kind, seems to be 
about my ideal now." 

And this on the eve of the ' Edinburgh Fight ' ! 

The truth is S. J.-B. was in one of those backwaters of life 
which may at any moment give place to the swift rush of the 
current. She was living a great deal, of course, in the life she 
had left behind. On January 4th she writes to Dr. Sewall : 

" When I find time I mean to write to your cousin. ... I am 
sorry foi W., he is a very nice boy. But, dear me, they do seem 
such a pair of children. 

I don't think she will get a nicer man, but of course that is nothing 
if she doesn't love him. I quite agree with you, ' Never marry if 
you can help it ' 1 " 

And, in the depths of her mind she was constantly pon- 
dering the problems and mysteries of our being. 

" Jan. aist. [Diary] 29 ! ' et praeterea nihil ' ! " 

" Jan. 25th. . . . Yesterday Martineau's fine definition of atheism, 
the mind that venerates nothing, aspires to nothing." 

" Jan. 3ist. Came tonight across old Tiench's line, ' When 
God afflicts thee think He hews a rugged stone, which must be 
shaped or else aside as useless thrown.' 

And then those true sad pale lines of Martineau's (' Child's Thought ') 
about youth's eagerness for truth, sometimes productive of dark 
agonies of doubt and loneliness drearier than death, leaving the 
soul exposed upon the field of conflict without a God to strive for 
or a weapon for the fight. 

Yesterday his ' Immortality ' helped me again to seize that idea, 
apprehend, 'hang on to' (Trench). That the negative testimony 
was stronger for than against far harder to realize soul extinct than 
immortal, that instinct for immortality grows stronger in sorrow, 
bereavements and on confines of death, more likely teachers than 
the dust and glare of Vanity Fair. That the strange ' caprice of 
death ' in selection, etc., inexplicable except in belief of future to 
which this is the ante-chamber. ' Simply migrations of mind.' " 

Of course the outward stagnation of life, the want of a 
definite object and purpose, renewed the old regrets for the 
friendship by means of which " we might have done anything 
together, we two." 



DRIFTING 217 

" Feb. 3rd. 4 p.m. 

' Are not the letters coming ? 
The sun has almost set.' 

I seem to have two such abiding ideas (presentiments ? hopes ?) 
ist. That somehow, somewhen the old door must be reopened, 
light in the eventide, . . . 2nd. That some medical way will open 
perhaps in Scotland, and at length some one take pity on me and 
really teach me and push me. 

Oh, dear, how I wish I had anyone with whom I could really take 
counsel and make common cause. 

Well, I believe I am learning silence and patience at least some- 
what, but how ' bleak and bare ' ! Everything so grey and so dim. 

Feb. 4th. In the night I woke and found M.'s head was ' dreadful.' 
So I laid one hand on her forehead and one on her hand and willed 
and willed the pain away, till she slept quietly. 

Curious how weary and achy that arm was even next morning, 
how ' washed out ' I was ! 

She says, ' How do you explain it ? ' 

' Nohow.' " 



CHAPTER II 
AT THE GATES OF THE CITADEL 

IN any case S.J.-B. was not to wait long for those "with 
whom she could take counsel." In the autumn of 1867 Mr. 
Alexander Macmillan appears to have discussed with her the 
projected publication of a volume of essays on questions 
relating to modern women, and in January 1869 he writes 
in answer to an enquiry from her : 

" DEAR MADAM, 

Mrs. Butler, 280 South Hill Park Road, Liverpool, is the 
address. There has been nothing done about the proposed volume 
yet. But I have by no means abandoned the hope of having it 
done, and shall not be sorry if you allude to it in writing to Mrs. 
Butler. 

My own notion was that the volume should be wholly written by 
ladies, and that some diversity of judgement should be allowed on 
minor points at least, provided that a consensus were assured on 
the large ground of higher culture for women. I confess myself 
that the question of the Suffrage is a doubtful one. ... I confess 
myself to think that politics in the sense of mere government is by 
no means of the highest importance to nations and to humanity, 
and that what is done in homes is incalculably deeper and more 
powerful [in its influence] on human character and destiny. 

All these points are open to discussion, and I think a volume 
claiming the very highest and widest culture for women might at 
the same time discuss with advantage whether the field in which 
it is to be exercised need be co-ordinate with men's. 

Yours very truly, 

ALEX. MACMILLAN." 

Apparently S.J.-B. approached Mrs. Butler without delay, 
and a few weeks later she writes to Dr. Sewall from Bonchurch, 



AT THE GATES OF THE CITADEL 219 

where they were staying for the benefit of Mrs. Jex-Blake's 
health : 

" Did I tell you that I have been making friends with Mrs. Butler, 
the head of the non-Davies party among the women ? She approves 
of the new Cambridge exams, which Miss Davies . . . refuses because 
not identical with those of the men. Mrs. Butler and I say ' Take 
all you can get and then ask for more,' don't you ? 

I expect to be here with my Mother for about three weeks longer, 
then she will probably go to Cheltenham to see my brother, and I 
may go to Cambiidge, Edinburgh, St. Andrews, etc., to see if I can 
poke in anywhere. 

And yet, even if I got admitted, I don't feel sure that I should 
feel ready to leave my Mother next winter. Unless she changes 
very much for the better, I cannot but think very badly of her. I 
think she has aged five years since you saw her. . . . 

She said to me yesterday, ' Don't you wish Dr. Lucy were here ? ' 
I said, ' No, she's doing better work,' but I do sometimes ' weary 
for you ' all the same." 

Mrs. Butler was deeply interested in the new ally, and very 
anxious that she should carry out her dream of obtaining a 
proper medical education in her own country. Dr. T. W. 
Jex-Blake was also sympathetic, and so it came about that 
enquiries were made among University professors who might 
be supposed to have an open mind on the subject. Some 
interesting letters were the result : 

" Wimborne, 

Jan. 1 4th. 
DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I have not been able to obtain quite as accurate information 
about London University as I should like, but there is no use in my 
delaying any longer to answer your letter. As regards Cambridge, 
I do not think that the most sanguine reformer would advise you 
to look for any relaxation of barriers that would be of service to you, 
for some years. I am among the most sanguine, and I do not think 
that we shall be giving degrees to women until after ten years at 
least. We do not as yet examine men unless resident in colleges. 
The University of London, which is an open examining board, 
ought to be much more hopeful. Unfortunately this university 
(by an arrangement which ought not to have been borrowed from 
its older sisters) is governed in the last resort by Convocation, an 
assembly got together by agitation among all graduates of a certain 
standard, and in which the influence of the London doctors is practi- 



220 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

cally preponderant. This assembly rejected last year a proposal 
by which women would have been admitted to medical degrees. 

The proposal will, I believe, be renewed, but I cannot say what 
reason there is to anticipate a different result. My information is 
only at second hand, and you may easily get more accurate in 
London. As soon as I hear more precisely what is going to be done, 
I will let you know. I cannot, from what I have heard advise you 
to expect a very speedy change. 

At the same time there is a general movement, of which it is hard 
to estimate the force, against the exclusion of women from the 
higher education. You say that you do not wish your plans to be 
talked of. I am rather sorry, tor^if you would suffer yourself to 
be made a grievance, it might help ' the cause ' in London. 
Believe me, 

Yours very truly, 

HENRY SIDGWICK." 



" Trin. Coll. Cambridge. 
Feb. 4th. 

DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I have now been here nearly a week, and hoped to write to 
you before, but I wished before doing so to see Markby, Bonney, 
and one or two of the Medical Board, and, being overwhelmed with 
work, have only just managed to do so. I find that neither Markby 
nor Bonney estimate any higher than I do the chance of your request 
being granted. Professor Liveing, one of the members of the Board, 
is favourable, but shakes his head as to his colleagues. Doctors 
preponderate on it, and one, Dr. Humphrey, professor of Anatomy, 
whom I expected to find somewhat more liberal, is averse to women 
practising medicine, ' mainly on their own account, because ' 
but you are familiar with the reasons. 

I have not canvassed the others as you had a certain wish for 
secrecy. If you think it worth while, I will ask Liveing to broach 
the question at the Board, without mentioning your name, in order 
to sound opinion : or I will in other ways ascertain privately the 
views of the members. I do not however feel that this would be 
decisive, as they may not have considered the question and might 
yield to argument. However I feel almost sure that your appeal 
would be rejected without much discussion. Markby is of opinion 
that even supposing the Board consented to propose the change to 
the Senate, that body would certainly reject it. And he (M.) is 
inclined to think that it would injure the cause of female education 
here in general, to stir up hostility in the Senate on this particular 
matter. (I do not myself feel sure of this.) But he does not think 



AT THE GATES OF THE CITADEL 221 

application to the Board would do any harm. Bonney also thinks 
this course hopeless but harmless. 

Even after consent of the Board and the Senate, you would have 
to be admitted as member of some college ; but in the case supposed, 
that would not cause much difficulty. . . . 

I do not know whether you will think any thing more of us after 
this. If you do come to look for yourself at the ' terrain,' you will 
at any rate find a minority of sympathizers who will give you any 
aid in their power, among them 

Yours sincerely, 

HENRY SIDGWICK. 

P.S. You will see that, on reflection, I am somewhat doubtful 
of the advantage of making the application. On the whole, how- 
ever, I still think it would be a good thing." 

Meanwhile Professor Masson of Edinburgh University had 
written a letter to Mrs. Butler, from which S. J.-B. quotes 
the following extract in her diary : 

" It will give me much pleasure to see Miss Jex-Blake (whose 
name is well known to me) ; Sir James Simpson will be very glad to 
see her also. ... I fear however that at present the chance of the 
throwing open of professional education and degrees are not so 
great with us as Miss Blake seems to imagine" (!) The exclama- 
tion point is S. J.-B.'s. " But who knows what may happen or how 
soon?" 

On February I5th, S. J.-B. writes to Dr. Sewall : 

" I think I may probably go to Cambridge and see whether there 
is the least chance of anything medical there. I have almost no 
hope, but it is thought well to apply at least to the Medical Board 
just for the principle of the thing. Then I may probably go to 
Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Glasgow, etc. I understand that Glasgow 
was expressly founded on the model of Bologna ; now Bologna 
admitted women ! 

Did I tell you that there is to be a volume of Essays published in 
the summer about all sorts of Women's questions, and I have been 
asked to write about the Medical question. If I do, I rather think 
I shall send you my essay to criticise first, shall I ? . . . I wish very 
much that I could find some English lady to go in for Medicine 
with me, it would be such a comfort in thundering at the Colleges, 
and in working afterwards. There is one very capable woman of 
about 30, a thorough lady, who is staying with us now, who 
would like extremely to study for many reasons, but is withheld by 
the great prejudice and very bad health of her mother." 



222 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

It was indeed a loss to the whole woman movement that 
Miss Ursula Du Pre was prevented from taking a more articu- 
late part in it. for one tries in vain to think of one of her 
contemporaries who was more generously gifted by nature 
and circumstances. She had mental powers that would have 
fitted her to shine in almost any of the professions strictly 
preserved for the benefit of men, great common sense, a 
finely balanced judgment, and what appealed to S. J.-B. 
perhaps more than anything else a keen and unfailing sense 
of humour. Tact too she had, and the singular charm of the 
" great lady " who is at the same time one of the simple- 
hearted. Deeply religious throughout life, she was absolutely 
devoid of false humility and of the ultra-sensitiveness that 
would have rendered her gifts of small avail beyond her own 
circle. The accident of her sex set her free from the cares 
and responsibilities of the landowner ; and one cannot 
wonder that S. J.-B. bitterly resented the unalterable decision 
of some members of her family that a medical career was 
out of the question. 

Nothing, however, can really rob the world of the usufruct 
of gifts like these. The influence of a man or woman can 
never be measured by the number of those who experience 
it at first hand. Who shall say whether it is better to have 
a thousand disciples, or twelve, or one ? 

Mrs. Jex-Blake and Mrs. Du Pre had long been acquainted, 
but it was in this month of January 1869 that the two daughters 
first met and found each other. S.J.-B. brought much to 
the friendship, as the reader of the previous volume is aware ; 
her gifts were great, her knowledge of life astonishingly wide 
for a young woman of her day ; but she found no less than 
she brought. Never again could she complain of the lack 
of a friend " with whom she could take counsel." All 
through the troublous times that were to follow so closely on 
the inception of their friendship, Miss Du Pre was her 
admiring critic, her confidante and- counsellor, following 
every move in the complicated game, disapproving, per- 
haps, sometimes, but sympathising always. She was the 
friend too of S.J.-B.'s friends and comrades, and in the 
long days of hope deferred there were those who must surely 



AT THE GATES OF THE CITADEL 223 

have fallen in the breach but for Miss Du Pre's material and 
spiritual aid. 

Meanwhile S. J.-B. wrote the Essay on " Medicine as a 
Profession for Women," which was published a few months 
later in the volume entitled Women's Work and Women's 
Culture. " Fairish, not quite satisfactory," is her own 
verdict on the first draft, which was doubtless considerably 
improved by the suggestions of friendly critics. As the 
Essay appeared later in her book on Medical Women, it could 
scarcely be bettered, and indeed it has proved a storehouse 
of research and argument for all subsequent writers and 
speakers on the subject. 

Professor Newman, to whom Mrs. Butler sent the first draft, 
wrote an admirable letter : 

" I have no learning in the history of female physicians, but I 
know that in my boyhood I read in a magazine an urgent remon- 
strance with ladies for their prejudice against man -mid wives, of 
whom the writer speaks as a beneficent innovation. I think I have 
read that they were first used in the Court circle of Louis XIV. . . . 
To prove negatives is always hard, but I should not fear to write 
that the exclusion of women from acting as physicians to women 
is quite a modern usurpation by the male sex, and limited to the 
nations which cultivate modern science. The topic reminds me 
of the address of the nurse to Queen Phoedra in Euripides' Hip- 
polytus, when she observes her mistress to be wild and out of health, 
' If thy complaint be anything of a more secret kind, here are 
women at hand to compose the disease. But, if thy distress be 
such as may be told to males, tell it in order that it may be com- 
municated to the physicians.' 

This is almost as if in no case would the male physician do more 
than give advice when the facts were reported to him through the 
women. 

It is nearly so in Turkey to this day. A Pasha wanted advice 
for his wife from a friend of mine without his seeing her." 

" Do quote Euripides in your Essay," writes Mrs. Butler. " Never 
mind if we look a little more learned than we are. Let us spoil the 
Egyptians." 

And again, 

" I am sure Mr. Newman intended you to use anything in his 
letter which you could make available. He is so generously helpful." 



224 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

On February 24th, S. J.-B. writes to Dr. Sewall : 

" I have written the Essay I spoke of about Medical Women, and 
I shall send it to you to see in a week or two, as soon as I can get it 
copied. There are several points on which I want your authority 
and opinion ; tell me whenever you think I overstate facts or make 
mistakes or tell me if you think I might put things more strongly 
with advantage. Tell me how many instances have occurred of 
men doctors putting their womankind under your treatment, or 
that of other women you know, Dr. B., Dr. C., and J. W. ? any 
more ? 

Also anything else that occurs to you generally. 

I had a witty letter from Miss Putnam this morning, in which 
she says how very indifferent it is to her if Mrs. D. chooses to ' invent 
Arabian Nights' tales ' about her. I do hope that you have published 
her letter, don't simply disregard me because I'm across the 
Atlantic and can't pinch you ! She made me dreadfully envious 
by saying that she is going in for some months' work at Operative 
Surgery, and that it will be ' very jolly.' I believe, however that 
for the summer at any rate 1 ought to stay with my Mother and try 
to make her very jolly (poor old darling !) If I can get into any of 
the Colleges for the winter, that may be another matter, though I 
am not sure." 

Meanwhile Professor Sidgwick was pursuing his kind and 
public-spirited enquiries : 

" Trin. Coll. Cam. 
Mar. i. 

My DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I should have written to you before, but I have found it 
difficult to make up my mind. I now, however, after some hesita- 
tion, am inclined to dissuade you from making the attempt. I have 
not visited any of the Medical Board (as I thought it best, if you 
did come, that you should find them unprepared), but I have dis- 
cussed the matter with about ten discreet persons varying in age 
and position. 

Not one of us thinks that there is the smallest chance of your 
request being granted. The feeling of the [? Board] is certain to 
be decidedly against you : and there are minor obstacles interposed 
by existing regulations, which might be easily set aside if there was 
a desire to do so, but which will furnish excuses for rejection to any 
who may require such. 

The question then comes, Will the raising of the matter wow advance 
or retard out ultimate success ? On this point we vary in opinion, 
but no one very decidedly thinks it will be a gain, while some are 



AT THE GATES OF THE CITADEL 225 

very strongly of opinion that it will do more harm than good. After 
much hesitation, I have come myself to this latter view, not on 
general grounds, for in general I like (as Lincoln said) to keep pegging 
away : but because we have hitherto done what we have done for 
women's education by great quietness and moderation, and so far 
it seems best to go on in the same way : if our present scheme for 
examining women succeeds, it will be easier to take a further step : 
moreover I expect that we shall soon open our examinations more 
unrestrictedly to men, and that will make it easier to open them to 
women. Your application now would thus be a ' breach of contin- 
uity,' and would appear extravagant to many undecided people 
who after a few years may be brought to look upon a similar appli- 
cation as quite natural. 

Against this is to be set the advantage of raising the question, 
and getting people to exercise their minds on it, especially with so 
good a case (and I have no doubt advocacy) as yours. 

In short, we should gain, I believe, by argument, but should very 
likely lose more by hardening a mass of fluid prejudice, that may 
otherwise evaporate in the natural course of events. 

So that, on the whole, I am slightly 1 opposed to your making the 
attempt, on public grounds only : and even if the balance between 
probable gain and loss is about even, I should hardly like to advise 
you to incur so much trouble that could not possibly benefit yourself. 

If you do come, I need not say that I will do anything I can to 
assist you, and generally to make your stay in Cambridge as pleasant 
as possible. 

My instinct is to tell you to come, but that is because I like a 
fight : my soberer judgment is the other way. 
Believe me, 

Yours very truly, 

HENRY SIDGWICK." 

" Trin. Coll. 

Mar. 8. 
MY DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I am sorry that we shall not have the pleasure of seeing you : 
but, as regards the application, I am quite convinced that your 
decision is right. Just at present the reformers here do not want 
stimulating, and I think the neutral people want management. As 
regards the Scotch Universities, I am afraid I cannot help you 
personally. . . . 

I have taken counsel with a friend here J. Stuart who is now 
examiner at St. Andrews. He has promised to write to you and 
to send introductions to two or three people there whom you may 

1 " Slightly " is interpolated in the original letter, 
p 



226 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

like to visit. I imagine that either Edinburgh or St. Andrews will 
be more likely to serve your purpose than Glasgow or Aberdeen. 
If I can find any means of aiding you at Edinburgh, I will write 
again. I may have friends who know some of the Professors. 
Masson is the only one of whom I know anything, he having once 
been an editor of mine. I should think he is very likely to help 
you, Shairp, I should fear, not ; but I may be wrong. 

Of Ireland I know nothing : but from what I have heard I should 
think our Conservatism here is nothing to the Conservatism of 
Dublin particularly when Gladstone is Disestablishing. 

With best wishes for your success, I am, 

Yours very sincerely, 

H. SlDGWICK." 

On the following day came a letter from Mr. Stuart, offering 
all the help in his power : 

" I hope you will excuse my unceremoniousness in thus writing 
to you by the belief that I have your success much at heart." 

" My husband and I both think that it would be better not to try 
Cambridge in the face of Mr. Sidgwick's opinion," writes Mrs. Butler. 
" No one is better able to test the feeling of the University than he. 
I hope before long England will be ashamed of herself in this matter. 
We must do all we can by working quietly and extensively on the 
hearts and consciences of men. I find no man of ordinary candour 
who is not easily convinced, but the M.D.s will be the obstacle. 
They hang together so. 

Shall you try Edinburgh ? If not, do you think of taking a 
foreign degree ? I wish you were an M.D. You would have plenty 
of patients at once. myself among the number." 

Thus it came about that when Mrs. Jex-Blake went to 
visit her son at Cheltenham, S.J.-B. "screwed her courage 
to the sticking-point," and went to Edinburgh. The entry 
in her diary is characteristic : 

" Monday, March isth. To Edinbro. How I dreaded the 
journey and sequence ! On waking, ' If Thou go not with me, 
carry me not up hence ' ! " 

Meanwhile the University of Edinburgh stood foursquare, 
and the professors sat in their comfortable chairs, little 
dreaming that their Day of Judgment was at hand. Even 
at a cursory glance they were an imposing body of men. 
Some few of them were great in character, or in intellect, 



AT THE GATES OF THE CITADEL 227 

or in both : taken as a whole they were probably |well 
above the average. In any case they were men of like 
passions with ourselves, well-disposed, kindly, just a little 
blunted by success, desirous of smooth things. As they 
acted, so would most similarly constituted bodies of men have 
acted at that day. The only difference between them and 
other men lay in the fact that it was to them the challenge 
of the future came. 

And who was to tell them that this was the challenge of 
the future ? It was so trifling an episode in outward seeming, 
only the visit of a gifted young woman, with a clear strong 
head, but assuredly with no immunity from an average 
human being's liability to error and mistake. If the professors 
had been canvassed on the subject of her request beforehand 
the result would have been an almost unanimous No : they 
had no more idea of admitting women to the University than 
they had of founding a Chair of Millinery. But the applicant 
was among them before they were aware ; she knew what 
she wanted and she knew how to state her wants effectively. 
Her arguments were all at her ringer-ends ; and, although she 
made no sex appeal, she was possessed of fine dark eyes and 
a singularly musical voice. 

In those days men had not learnt to be on their guard 
against an apparently guileless young woman. To many she 
stood for little more than a precocious child, who must be 
humoured, and, if necessary silenced later by sheer force 
majeure. 

But S.J.-B. took them a step farther on than this. She 
was obviously no mere child : she was a woman who had 
seen a good deal of life, who realized something of the meaning 
of sex as a factor in human affairs, and who was prepared 
calmly to assert that it ought not to stand in the way of the 
privilege she asked. When she faced the pundits with those 
candid earnest eyes, there must have been some who were 
literally mesmerised for the moment into sharing her belief. 

Yes, the Day of Judgment was at hand. I do not mean, 
of course, that the " sheep " were those who forwarded the 
applicant's claims, and the " goats " those who put difficulties 
in her way. In those days there might well be room for two 



228 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

opinions on an experiment that had scarcely been tried. 
The Day of Judgment is apt to be a subtler, more searching 
thing than that. What I mean is that one cannot go through 
the vast mass of letters and documents relating to the whole 
matter without seeing the stuff of which those men were 
made, the " worth " on the one hand, the " leather and 
prunella " on the other, and oh, such imposing leather and 
prunella ! One realizes afresh that when a big emergency 
takes everyone by surprise, only those who are guided in life 
by great principles can hope to act rightly. They may not 
all act alike : they may or may not make mistakes ; but at 
least they act with essential dignity : they ring true ; when 
they lie in their graves their greatness shines out from the 
musty old papers which have chanced for a few short years 
to embody an imperishable record. 

And there is no one whose greatness shines out more 
clearly than does that of David Masson, Professor of Rhetoric 
and English Literature, to whom S. J.-B. went first. From 
first to last one's admiration for him never swerves : one 
does not know which to admire in him most, the clear insight, 
the high courage, the fine discretion, or the sheer unfailing 
brotherly sympathy. 

This is the first impression he made upon S. J.-B. : 

" Quiet, rather reserved, kindly. Promised introduction to most 
of professors. Seems rather hopeful, ' tide setting in.' " 

One wonders what were the words in which he summed 
her up. He must have rejoiced in the clear brain, the quick 
wit, the cultured voice, the easy flow of sane and logical 
speech. Did he guess at the impulsive nature that was 
bound to make mistakes ? at the great warm heart that 
was bound to suffer more than most ? 

In any case he gave her the following letter to the Dean 
of the Faculty of Medicine : 

" MY DEAR BALFOUR, 

Miss J ex-Blake, an English lady known as the author of a 
work on American Schools, is now in Edinburgh for a few days, 
chiefly with a view to ascertaining what chance there may be that 
Edinburgh Univeisity may (now that Paris and other continental 
cities have set the example) see its way to conferring a medical 



AT THE GATES OF THE CITADEL 229 

degree, after due study and qualification, on a lady candidate. It 
is but right that having come to Edinburgh for this purpose she 
should see you as the Dean of the Medical Faculty, in order to receive 
the best information and advice on the subject : and I shall be 
obliged by your courtesy in this matter. 

Yours very truly, 

DAVID MASSON." 

There was a similar note to Dr. Christison, in which the 
writer said : 

" The question, I believe, has been already before you ; but it 
has seemed to Miss Blake possible that, now that Paris and other 
Universities abroad have set the example, there may be some chance 
of a modification of the previous conclusion of Edinburgh University 
on the subject. As she will receive the best information and advice 
on the whole subject from members of the Medical Faculty, I take 
the liberty of giving her this note to you, with a request that you 
will kindly explain to her the state of things as they are, and of 
possibilities in the direction she has in view. 

Yours very truly, 

DAVID MASSON." 

And so, quite alone she who was as dependent on a com- 
rade, on a " helpmeet," as some of our greatest men have 
been with strange lodgings for a "base," she began the 
great work of canvassing the Edinburgh professors and the 
distinguished citizens who, for one reason or another, might 
be supposed to have a voice in the matter. She stood abso- 
lutely alone. She might belong to a good old family : her 
brother might be Headmaster of an English public school : 
but on the other side of the Tweed only a few of the enlightened 
knew anything of that. She was merely a clever young 
woman, with a rather outlandish name, who had conceived 
the extraordinary desire of obtaining a medical education by 
hook or by crook under the auspices of the Edinburgh Uni- 
versity. If only Dr. Sewall could have been with her or 
Mrs. Jenkinson, or Miss Du Pre, what a stay she would have 
been ! Fortunately Mr. Begbie was " kind and helpful as 
ever " ; the old friendship with Miss Orr and with Mrs. Burn 
Murdoch was a great resource still ; and Mr. Burn Murdoch 
was ready and willing to help to the utmost of his power. 
Miss Orr, it is true, was rather uncertain about the whole 



230 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

quest, wanted to know whether her old friend " went to 
church and read the Bible " ; and, however relevant the 
question may have been, S.J.-B. rightly felt that there 
was no time to go into it at this stage. 

Undoubtedly her two great supports through the time of 
stress if we set aside for the moment all that was involved 
in her " // Thou go not with me, ! " were the deep interest 
taken by Miss Du Pre in every detail of the story ; and the 
possession of Sadie's poems, which had just been published. 
In these latter she found fitting expression for the fightings 
and fears of her own inner life, and for her hard- won " twilight " 
consolation. It is an interesting fact that these two elements 
should have come into her life just at this moment, for one 
scarcely sees how she could have " won through " without 
them. Sadie's poems remained dear to her throughout life : 
she knew many of them by heart and repeated them almost 
on her deathbed ; and her copy is worn even more " thread- 
bare " than are her volumes of Robertson's Sermons. One 
can imagine the feelings with which, after a keen exciting day's 
work, she went home to her lonely lodgings, with no " Alice " 
looking out for her, to write her report to Dr. Sewall or Miss 
Du Pre, and to copy in her diary as she did the lines : 

" Up the way that is narrow, the path that is steep, 

With no guide for my footsteps, no help for my fear : 
Only this that He knoweth the way that I tread, 
And His banner of crimson is over my head. 

With the loneliness awful pressed into my soul, 

With no voice for companion, no grasp of a hand " 

Yes, one cannot help wishing that an intimate friend had 
been at hand. One wonders whether she was even becomingly 
dressed : we know she would have wished to be ; but she so 
seldom made the most of her appearance. 1 

In any case what happened is perfectly clear. The Pro- 
fessors for the most part had a deeply rooted dislike to having 

1 " By the way your accounts of your dress are just a shade contra- 
dictory," writes Miss Du Pre somewhat later. " One day you tell me 
you look disreputable and plunge me into depths of anxiety ! and the 
next you say you are ' very tidy.' Isn't this more than average incon- 
sistency ? " 



AT THE GATES OF THE CITADEL 231 

women students in the University : in fact, the idea of such 
a thing was unthinkable ; but when a gifted young woman 
actually sat in their sanctums urging her plea, they could 
not bear to say No. Strictly speaking, they should have 
refused to see her, but did any man yet ever refuse to see a 
woman whose name was before the public ? 

One wonders as one reads the papers how many of them 
knew what their " powers," what the legal powers of the 
University really were ? how many of them really wished 
to know ? There was a comfortable conviction in the back 
of their minds that insuperable difficulties lay shrouded in 
those unprobed depths. In the meantime why not show a 
little kindness to a gallant girl who was as modest as anyone 
could be in formulating so outrageous a demand, and whose 
pleading so it has been said would have " wiled the bird 
from the bough " ? It was after she was gone that the real 
horror of the situation came home to them, and that they 
fell back again with relief on the thought of those unprobed 
depths, the legal powers of the University. 

It would all be very ordinary, and sometimes rather depres- 
sing, reading, were it not that Professor Masson and some of 
the others, when they gave her their provisional support, 
really meant exactly what they would have meant in giving 
their support to a man no more and no less. Their own 
principle, their own righteousness was involved ; they were 
quite prepared to see women students if so^t was to be 
in the University quadrangle and class-rooms ; and they 
meant to do what in them lay to give this woman a fighting 
chance. 



CHAPTER III 
SUCCESS? 

MEANWHILE Miss Elizabeth Garrett was providing in her own 
career the very example that was needed to clinch the argu- 
ment. After much arduous work and lavish expenditure of 
money on special classes, she had obtained the " L.S.A.," a 
licence to practise from the Society of Apothecaries, 1 and good 
use she had made of the platform thus gained. Henceforth 
no one could deny that an Englishwoman had the physique 
and the wit to study, " qualify," and practise Medicine, yes, 
even to get her full share of patients. It was scarcely to be 
expected that Miss Garrett would rest content without a 
University degree, but she considered that the time was not 
ripe for the agitation of the question in England, and she 
had little sympathy with S.J.-B.'s efforts in Edinburgh. 
None the less her successful career was a more valuable 
argument than her support would have been, even if, at 
the moment, she had not been too fully occupied elsewhere to 
enter into the question at all. 

On March 2 1st, S. J.-B. wrote to Dr. Sewall : 

" I have two nice little bits of news about Miss Garrett. One is 
that the Princess Louise went to see her, and, after enquiring about 
the medical prospects of women, expressed strong hopes of their 
complete success. This is really worth a great deal, and I hope 

you will have too much sense to sneer at it. 
' I 

1 After Miss Garrett had obtained her diploma, the Society of Apothe- 
caries passed a resolution forbidding students henceforth to receive any 
part of their education privately, thus making it impossible even for a 
woman of means to follow in her steps. 



SUCCESS ? 233 

Secondly, I see in the British Medical Journal (which I shall try 
to send you) a notice that Miss Garrett had ' by special order of the 
minister ' been admitted to the first examination for M.D. [in Paris] 
and had passed it in the presence of a crowded audience with very 
great 6clat. That woman certainly has great power of study and 
work, hasn't she ? 

By the bye, you would have been interested at the scene in which 
I noticed this paragraph. I was sitting yesterday morning at Sir 
James Simpson's breakfast table, between him and his wife, and 
he passed the paper to me. . . . 

He was, of course, quite favourable to my application, and I am 
to breakfast with him again tomorrow and hear what he will do 
about it. 1 He is going off to Rome for a trip this week, but I am 
very anxious that he should vote in my favour first. He is so un- 
reliable that I do not know how to make sure of his doing it though, 
very likely he'll be at the other end of Edinburgh when the meeting 
is held. I told him that you remembered him and always spoke 
of his kindness to you. I am not quite sure whether he recalled it. 
He spoke highly of Dr. Emily Blackwell." 

A few days previous to this an unobtrusive little note of 
no small import appears in the diary : 

" 8.30 p.m. at Begbie's met Campbell Smith, who walked home 
with me. Older and more quiet than I had expected. Kindly." 

The favourable impression was mutual, if one may judge 
from the letter that follows : 

" 30 Royal Circus, 

2ist March, 1869. 
DEAR Miss BLAKE, 

I left your MS. yesterday with Mr. Findlay of the Scotsman. 
I think he will give you some help. If nothing be in the Scotsman 
tomorrow, and whether or not, you may call for him at the office. 
He will be happy to see you. He said so, and said further that you 
needed no note of introduction. 

The review of your book appeared on i8th Nov., 1867, and you 
will see that also in the pile when you call. 

Faithfully yours, 

J. C. SMITH." 

Thus began that support from the Scotsman, which, in the 
able hands of Mr. Alexander Russel, was destined to be of 
such incalculable value to the whole Feminist movement. 

1 To the irreparable loss of the women students, Sir James Simpson 
died in the spring of the following year. 



234 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

The Scotsman was just approaching the height of its 
reputation, and its advocacy was the more valuable because 
it was not supposed to have a specially weak side for new 
movements and forlorn hopes. It used to be said in those' 
days that, when the North Pole was discovered, a Scotsman 
would be found sitting on it, and it might have been added 
that the Scotsman would prove to be engrossed in the news- 
paper that bore his name. In any case, from this moment 
on, all that publicity could do for the cause was done. For 
better and for worse, the doings of S. J.-B. were about to 
be writ large for the whole world to read. They were the 
text round which the whole question was threshed out by 
countless firesides, the text on which the life and character 
of every other woman provided a running commentary. 

Small notion had S.J.-B. of the great flame that small 
spark was to kindle. In her diary she speaks quite casually 
of " my " leader, " highly approved by Masson." 

Meanwhile the canvassing was proceeding steadily, and 
S. J.-B.'s "thumb-nail" notes and sketches of character 
often make interesting reading, none the less so because 
her gifts in this direction were necessarily immature. 

" Thursday, i8th. ... A long i hours' talk with Allman, going 
earnestly over every inch of ground, he very nice ; at last, he ' should 
be delighted to see me in his class/ and he thought no legal objection 
against admission to classes, however about degrees. T am sure- 
he will be a firm strong true friend." 

" Friday, March igth. Today for the first time the astounding 
idea dawned upon me that it was perhaps just possible that I really 
might succeed after all ! 

// I did ! to enter first a British University ! (' first ' ? Yes, 
rather mean, I know, but instinctive ! ) 

ii a.m. [after three hours' work and visiting] Fraser. Friendly, 
but rather non-committal, speaking of it as a ' matter for the 
medical faculty,' etc. 

12. Balfour. At first rather wavering and weak. Didn't see 
how a woman could dissect, etc., till I told him ' I'd done it for some 
months,' etc. . . . Ultimately a very valuable suggestion that he 
and A. should admit me to their summer courses, of Botany and 
Natuial History, and then, if all went well I matiiculate in October, 
and go to the rest. Proposes to call a Medical Faculty meeting 
next week if posssible before Simpson goes. 



SUCCESS ? 235 

1.30, Lunch at the Grants. Very friendly and kind, he with 
real English Oxford manner and courtesy, she very kindly. 

He thought ' all would agree as to end, only difficulty as to 
means,' agreed with Balfour's idea of wisdom of deferring degree 
question. Was ' very much interested ' in it all, and thought my 
going to see each of the Faculty would make a great difference. 

Told me that in a recent speech here, Jowett ' hoped the Univer- 
sities would open to women ' and was cheered greatly. 

Gave me (sealed) introduction to Christison (the ogre) and 
authorized me to tell him ' he should make no difficulty,' etc. 

3 p.m. Henderson, feared women ' would get the cream of practice, 
if any ' (noble fear !) would ' think over it,' after a futile ' non 
possumus '." 

On the following day S. J.-B. sent in her formal application 
to the Dean of the Medical Faculty : 

" SIR, 

As I understand that the statutes of the University of Edin- 
burgh do not in any way prohibit the admission of women, and as 
the Universities of Paris and Zurich have already been thrown open 
to them, I venture earnestly to request from you and the other gentle- 
men of the Medical Faculty permission to attend the lectures in 
your Medical School during the ensuing session. 

I beg to signify my willingness to accede to any such conditions, 
or agree to any such reservations as may seem desirable to you, and 
indeed to withdraw my application altogether if, after due and 
sufficient trial, it should be found impracticable to grant me a con- 
tinuance of the favour which I now request. You, Sir, must be 
well aware of the almost insuperable difficulty of pursuing the 
study of Medicine under any conditions but those which can be 
commanded by large colleges only ; and, in view of the increasing 
demand for the medical service of women among their own sex, I 
am sure that you will concede the great importance of providing 
for the adequate instruction of such as desire thoroughly to qualify 
themselves to fulfil the duties of the medical profession. 

Earnestly commending my request to the favourable considera- 
tion of yourself and your colleagues. 
I am, Sir, 

Yours obediently, 

SOPHIA J EX-BLAKE." 

This letter is copied in her diary, and followed by the note : 

" Taken to him, and meeting called to oblige me at i p.m. Tuesday. 
Oh, dear, how these folks gain by comparison with Harvard ! 

9. 30 a.m. Turner. Quiet, thoughtful, realizing difficulty strongly, 



236 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

and referring to Christison as ' our Nestor.' Still listening heed- 
fully and promising my words should ' have due weight.' 

10.30. Christison. ' The matter has been decided.' Not rude 
but quite uncompromising. He should xise no influence, but vote 
against me. 

... 2 p.m. Dr. Bennett, who declared himself tired of fighting 
Syme and Christison, but will, I think, do it. He railed at them 
most of the time. Did not see the need of women as doctors, but 
acknowledged their possible value as assistant physiologists. . . - 1 
Will admit me, if possible, to his non-obligatory histology class in 
summei. . . . 

10 p.m. Was awfully cross at having to go to dine at ... and to 
tea at . . . , but at the latter ' met the gods,' a very nice woman 
of 33 or 34 with curiously white hair, Mrs. Evans, I think. She 
and I held together on almost all subjects. She would like to study 
Medicine (and I am sure has the power) but for an ' old aunt.' Oh, 
dear, the ' might have beens ' ! And yet here was I ten minutes 
ago defending ' absolute right ' as the only rule. 

Curious though how one's instinct leaps forward at the smallest 
chance. ' Couldn't we take a " flat " together ? ' " 

" Monday, March 22nd. A cup of tea and then to Simpson's to 
breakfast. He said he should probably be here tomorrow and would 
go to the meeting if at all possible. . . . 

Then ... to Laycock . . . who was ' frank ' (!) and told me ' as 
a public man/ etc., he must oppose, informed me women ' didn't 
understand their position,' that they did their own work in the 
world badly, that they had not sufficient strength for medical 
practice, ' if women are fit for war, I will allow them fit for medicine.' 
And, when 1 instanced the Amazons, thought that had nothing to 
do with it ! Was sure women preferred men to do everything for 
them, even in shops ; and informed me no decent woman knew 
what young men are, or if she did, it was reprehensible, etc. 

After lunch to Syme, he more favourable than I bad expected. 
Did think women ought to supersede ' that man in ... Street,' 
and thought if it was clearly understood that they only meant to 
practise in Midwifery and uterine diseases, there ' would be no 
opposition.' Not to be present tomorrow any way. 

Spence, rather doubtful -minded. Not strongly opposed, might 
turn either way, but is, I think, rather kindly and not irrational. 

Then called on kind Lady Grant ; then home to rest." 

" Tuesday, 23rd. 10.30 a.m. Now, having done all that lies in 
one woman's power except, perhaps, an article in the Daily Review, 



1 As Physiology was Dr. Bennett's speciality, the admission was wort^h 
having. 



SUCCESS ? 237 

having left a book, as a reminder, on Bennett, hunted up Sir 
J. Y. S. and crammed him [with] Mile Unpronounceable at St. 
Petersburg, I have to do what is hardest of all, wait. 

Four distinct votes in my favour, I believe, if all go and all keep 
faith with me. Allman . . . Bennett, Balfour, Simpson. 

Against me distinctly, Christison, Laycock, and probably Hen- 
derson. 

Doubtful, Turner, Spence, and, perhaps, Syme. 

Besides Maclagan (ill), and Playfair (probably absent). 1 

To lunch with Simpson at 2 p.m., and hear results. 

1.45 p.m. Waiting for the verdict ? How will it be ? Some- 
how the probability seems rather for me this time, but there, 
the Fates are so habitually adverse ! I can't help hoping and yet 
I don't expect success. I hope they won't ' give an uncertain 
sound ' and put it off indefinitely ! 

8 p.m. Gloria tibi Domine ! . . . 

At 2 p.m. went to Sir J. Y. S., found him out, but met him in 
the street. ' Yes, ye're to be let in to the classes if the Senatus 
allow ye, ' of course with all provisos as to ' tentative,' etc. But 
the great fact is granted, the thin end of the wedge in, and, though 
nothing is secure till after the Senatus on Saturday, yet it is an 
enormous triumph ! 

Three more days' of calling and entreating and arguing, then 
' after all these voices . . . peace.' 

After all, my aspiration to L. E. S. was not so ill-founded, ' If 
I can be the first woman to open a British University ' then surely 
I, like Charlotte Bronte ' shall have served, my heart and I ' even 
if I die straightway. 

For May, June and July, the Botany, Natural History, and 
Histology, with preparation for the Matriculation exam. 

Oh, dear, I do feel so exultant. ... In one sense I do see all the 
life-preamble to have been needed. The experience in the United 
States gave me much more chance of success now, the life there 
gave me health really to use the chance when it comes. 

I hardly fear the future at all ; not the students, nor the 
work. 

I am sorry not to be with Mother, but on the whole this must be 
best, I think. 

Four years of College ! All alone ? Surely not literally all the 
time spiritually, who knows ? 

What a pity, as I said to U.D. that they will use up gold for 
toasting-forks ! 



1 It must be borne in mind that at this time the question was before 
the Professors of the Medical Faculty only. 



238 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Well, I am sure the hind- wheels may run by faith for a long time 
now. Perhaps the tangle is beginning to unravel after all these 
years, and I shall have to cry, ' Oh, why didn't I bear on better 
then ! ' I suppose that is always the feeling when the cloud begins 
to lift. But till it lifts, 

' Still it is hard. No darkness will be light 
Though we should call it light from night till morn.' 

And surely the Father pitieth His children." 

The numberless quotations in the course of her diary, 
however fundamentally optimistic are almost always in a 
minor key ; but the minor key proves inadequate in the 
face of this great joy. One can see the dark eyes flash as 
she goes on, 

" ' Fair are the Marcian kalends, 

The proud ides, when the squadron rides, 
Shall be Rome's whitest day.' 

Surely I shall have to institute a festival for March 23rd. I 
wonder who's the saint. It will be very odd if any other day in 
my life will be (if all goes well) as vital an epoch as today. . . . 

I feel as if everybody was my peer today, for I want everybody 
to shake hands with me. I am so glad. Dear old Mother ! why 
are you not here to kiss me ? . . . O. H. ? . . . L. E. S. ? . . . Ursula ? 
. . . Perhaps your thought is nearest me tonight, because you more 
than any perhaps realize the day of crisis. . . ." 

" Wednesday, March 24th. How very nice it is to wake with a 
sense of something very good in the wind ! " 

Indeed it is small wonder that she was elated. Everyone 
had assured her that the opposition of the doctors was the 
thing to be feared, and now the Medical Faculty had recorded 
its vote in her favour. True, the permission only applied, 
in the first instance, to the Summer Term, and some of the 
professors may well have thought that the Summer Term 
would be more than enough to quench the ardour of the 
solitary woman student. But there is really no need to 
enquire into the manifold motives that may have swayed 
them. They had done what she asked, and it was scarcely 
to be supposed that the professors of the other faculties would 
prove more obdurate. One thinks with satisfaction of some 
of the men with whom she now had to deal, Professor 



SUCCESS ? 239 

Masson was not the only rock among them. One has but 
to recall the names of Professor Calderwood, Professor Lorimer, 
Professor Wilson, and others too, in order to realise that, so 
far as they were concerned, her feet were on sure ground. 
The diary of March 24th continues : 

" Then to Masson's, where I got 5 introductions. He very hopeful, 
I think. Seems not to think the University Court have the right 
to interfere. 

Then to Tytler's. He very quiet and legal. ' Should go to the 
Senatus quite unprejudiced,' which was hardly all I wanted ! . . . 

... In afternoon went with Mr. Begbie to see . . . Calderwood, 
at home and quite favourable. Should support me on Saturday. 
' Fine speaker,' says Begbie. 

Then Tait, quite favourable. 

Fleeming Jenkin, rather so, indeed I think he almost promised to 
vote for me, but feared some legal difficulties as to Matriculation, etc. 

After Begbie went home, I saw Kelland, he mildly favourable, 
but saw ' difficulties.' Still will vote, I think. 

In the evening at Blackies'. He with clear pure face, white hair 
and straw hat ! Half mad looking, certainly. But showed me 
favourable passages in his Notes on the Iliad, etc. XI. 740 , and 
' unless he hears strong things to the contrary ' will support me. 
Mrs. Blackie also nice, I think, not commonplace." 

" Thursday, 25th. Congratulations from Mother and U. D. . . . 
Left Iliad notes at Blackie's. Then saw Lorimer. Very kind and 
friendly. ' Very glad to see me.' Introduced me to Mrs. Lorimer, 
was ' sure women could do work men couldn't ', etc., and were needed. 
Introduced me to M'Pherson, saying he ' sufficiently expressed his 
opinion by saying he intended to vote for me.' 

Which McPherson doesn't. Not disagieeable however, though less 
earnestminded than most. 

Cosmo Innes. Painfully deaf, but very friendly. Much interested 
about my written communications about Bologna. Will support 
me. I'm to send him facts from British Museum. 

Muirbead I had been taught to fear as surely opposed. So he 
was at first, but candid and earnest and kind, and said at last, ' You 
have disposed of many of my objections.' Much interested as 
to University statistics, Bologna, etc. Suggested Balfour should 
write for information to Paris and Zurich. 

Then bought stockings and basket, and called on Miss Blyth, and 
came home pretty well done up. Now to start again soon. 

(I hear Mr. M., downstairs, is interested to hear they have ' that 
lady ' here !) 



240 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

3 p.m. Professor Playfair has been here, very kindly, very 
much in earnest, laying stress on Bologna degrees, etc. Intro- 
duction to Piazzi Smith, ' I am strongly in favour of granting her 
desire to attend the classes, with the view of taking the deg.ee in 
Medicine. She is thoroughly in earnest and desires no favour. Do 
give her an opportunity of stating her case to you.' 

Then with D. B M. to Stevenson . . . who thinks it ' haigh taime ' 
to have female practitioners, and means to vote for me, I think. 

Then D. B. M. home, and with Mi. Begbie to Dr. C. who seems 
to have been at a Tory clack with Christison and Co. in the morning 
and won't help me. He most naively let out ' what Christison meant 
to do,' i.e. argue that the Senate could not act without more legal 
advice, delay, and if possible lefer to Chancellor Inglis. Whereon 
I wrote to Tait, Innes and Playfair to put on guard. 

6 p.m. Dinner at 22 Manor Place. . . . 

By the bye, how queerly much impressed Muirhead was with the 
' trouble I had taken ' at British Museum, etc." 

" Friday 26th. This morning at 10.30, to Piazzi Smith, deaf and 
very hard to get at. Declared nothing but Astronomy to be his 
business, and particularly no science used for money-jetting ! 
Then he rambled off to ' supply before demand ' Meteorological 
Society and Mr. Lowe, etc., and Registrar of Deaths, etc. Then 
had a ladies' meeting been called to declare they would employ 
women, etc. . . . However I might be sure he ' would not vote 
against me,' and advised me not to be discouraged ! . . . Oh, dear, 
what a strain it is on one to have to sit out that sort of thing 1 

2 p.m. came Professor Wilson, very kind and friendly, though, 
having inadvertently shown him my list, he instantly pounced down 
on his own name and asked my authority. So I gave up Playfair 
instantly ! . . . A grave good thoughtful man, a very sound 
champion. 

Then to see Lorimer who encourages me finely." 

" Saturday March 2yth. Went with Mr. Begbie to see Oakeley 
(at school with Tom) Oxfordish (i.e. non -enthusiastic), but civil 
enough. Said he should support. 

ii a.m. Fraser. The Medical Faculty having agreed, he was 
ready to do so too. I specially pleaded against " shelving " the 
question. 

Indeed I hope with all my writing and speaking and warning 
(including my rather ill-advised raid on Balfour at College this 
morning) I have put a spoke in Christison's wheel. Just about 
voting on it, I suppose, 3.30 p.m. 

It is to be hoped Wilson will be prophetic, ' We'll have a great 
fight, but we'll beat them ! ' 



SUCCESS ? 241 

10 p.m. Success, and such a success, 14 to 4 ! ' Nunc di- 
mittis ' ? No, surely, fresh zeal and energy for lifelong work. 

Isn't it good after such a fortnight of rush and battle and strain 
to go to bed, saying, ' The work is done ! ' 

' Of all the gifts of God ... I'" 

It is interesting to note that the speakers in S.J.-B.'s 
favour at the Meeting of Senatus were : Professors Balfour, 
Tait, Lorimer, Fleeming Jenkin, Masson, Blackie, Bennett, 
and Sir Alexander Grant. Against her were Professors 
Christison, Turner, Laycock and Craufurd. To her great 
surprise Professor Muirhead gave notice of an appeal to the 
University Court. Professor Playfair was out of town, but 
the following letter has been preserved : 

" University Club, 
Edinburgh. 

26 March, 69. 
MY DEAR MASSON, 

I have to express my regret that, in ignorance of there being 
a Senatus Meeting tomorrow, I had made an important engagement 
in Fifeshire. 

I cordially concur in the recommendation of the Medical Faculty, 
that Miss Blake should be allowed to attend the Summer classes. 
If no inconvenience be found in practice, there are many precedents 
for female giaduation, and for female professors. Pope Joan her- 
self is an instance, although she professed and graduated in male 
attire. But lesser people than a pope may be adduced as precedents, 
in Salamanca, Bologna and Padua, especially from the thirteenth 
century onwards. Six Roundell Palmer would not object on the 
ground of the legality of the prospect of female graduation, though 
if he were a member of Senatus he might doubt the expediency. 

For my part, I have faith that the students will act like gentlemen, 
and will prove that the tentative session has not been lost by dis- 
courtesy on their part. 

Yours sincerely, 

LYON PLAYFAIR." 



CHAPTER IV 
A CHECK 

ON the day following that memorable meeting of Senatus, 
S. J.-B. had a curious conversation with the wife of one of 
the professors : 

" Mrs. A. tells me Christison actually threatened to resign if 
women are admitted ! and to the Medical Faculty this is a formid- 
able threat. She thinks also ' the professors haven't treated me 
fairly ' (which I deny) in not letting me know how much they dislike 
the whole thing. Doubtless A. does, and the babble of her bourne 
is magnified to her. 

Still I know all is not yet gained. Yet surely very much is. And 
can ' He so far have brought me ' ? Not that that is a real argu- 
ment, because if it fails we must suppose failure is right in one sense. 

Amusing how much personal power Mr?. A. attributes to me, 
' You've just turned them round your thumb, I don't believe 
there's another woman could have done it, you are wholly excep 
tional, etc.' I say ' very complimentary, but I think not quite 
true.' She thinks I've been ' wonderfully clever,' and when I object 
to the phrase, ' have really shown wonderful power and tact.' 

I'm afraid one can't help being a little pleased to think one's own 
effort has done something, and yet the other feeling lies deeper : 

* If Thou didst will, a mighty sword 
Out of my stem should grow.' 

By the bye U. D. thinks my poem l the saddest in the book, 
' Poor child ' [she says] ' how sorry I am for you ! Oh, if the atmos- 
phere of Easter joy which is bright round me were only your's too, 
. . . Such an " only this," it would be better to be in the blackest 
night with the hope of stumbling into broad .daylight some time or 
other. It is the sort of hopelessness of any more light to come that 
makes the poem so sad to me.' 

1 " Walking in Darkness." 



A CHECK 243 

I don't agree. I think the ' only this ' is- just everything, enough 
to live on and die on, though not enough (what is ?) to prevent life 
being very hard and stony. It seems to me just the essence of the 

' . . . strenuous souls for belief and prayer 
Who stand in the dark on the lowest stair 
Affirming of God, He is certainly there.' 

And did even Christ keep that much always ? 
I believe Miss Cobbe is right, in every Calvary there must be 
' darkness over the face of all the land ' for awhile. 
Well, indeed, if we can always keep a firm grip of 

' Only this, that He knoweth the way that I tread, 
And His banner of crimson is over my head.' 

And again, 

' This only for solace, God knoweth indeed 
Where the poverty galls, of what things we have need.' " 

At 1.30 came Mrs. Evans with her clear good eyes and face. Much 
disposed at least to Botany. How I hope she will ! " 

Meanwhile S. J.-B. was undoubtedly the woman of the 
moment, and she had the satisfaction by no means an 
unbroken one as life went on of feeling herself a thoroughly 
popular person. She lunched with this dignitary and dined 
with that ; some of the wives of the Professors offered to 
accompany her to the lectures if no other women came forward 
to join her ; and some students whom she met at dinner told 
her they thought the students would be delighted that she 
should join the class. 

Apparently this sanguine view was a mistaken one, for an 
agitation was raised among some of the men at whose 
instigation we have no means of knowing which resulted 
in another appeal to the University Court against the decision 
of the Senatus. 

Very characteristically, but with Professor Masson's 
approval, S.J.-B. had called on Professor Muirhead to ask 
him the grounds of his appeal. He told her he had appealed 
because he did not think the question had been fully con- 
sidered, and he thought the vote of the Senatus had settled 
the question too finally for all women. He pointed out that, 
as things stood, she must matriculate even to go to the lectures, 



244 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

but held out hopes that the University Court could give 
tentative permission. He was " not at all unfriendly," and 
showed her cases of mediaeval women doctors to add to the 
strength of her armoury. 

Meanwhile Lord Advocate Moncrieff had proved " kindly 
and favourable," and the Lord Provost, " very lordly in his 
big chair, but rather gracious " had promised to give the 
question " his best consideration." Sir Alexander Grant 
thought the thing was won with the Professors, and had 
" hardly a doubt " of the University Court. 

When, on March 3ist of that eventful year, S. J.-B. returned 
to Brighton, she fully believed that her cause was so far 
gained, and there is not the smallest doubt that a number 
of the professors shared her belief. One cannot read the 
diary and the letters of the periods without feeling how much 
cause there was for confident anticipation ; but we have 
only to turn to dry-as-dust facts, to the constitution of Edin- 
burgh University, in order to realize how precarious the 
situation was. 

There were no less than four bodies whose business it was 
to consider the question at stake, and who in addition to 
the Chancellor had to be consulted before any important 
change could be made : 

1. The Medical Faculty, consisting of Medical Professors 

only. 

This hurdle, as the reader is aware, had been 
somewhat unexpectedly passed. 

2. The Senatus, comprising all the Professors of every 

Faculty. 
This obstacle, too had been passed. 

3. The University Court, composed of the Rector, the 

Principal, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, with 
five others appointed respectively by the Chan- 
cellor, the Rector, the Senatus, the Town Council 
of Edinburgh, and the General Council of the 
University. 

4. The General Council, comprising all those graduates 

who register their names as members. 



A CHECK 245 

Mr. Sidgwick's remarks about Convocation naturally occur 
to one at this stage ; but what mainly strikes one on facing 
these particulars is the extraordinary constitution of No. 3 
as a body authorized to reconsider the decisions of No. 2. 
The Rector was some distinguished man who might never 
have been in Edinburgh in his life ; the Lord Provost may 
be fairly supposed to have his hands pretty full without 
taking upon him the consideration of highly technical questions 
that lay outside his sphere. As for some of the other members, 
one can only say that the manner of their election calls up 
possibilities concerning them too varied for the human mind 
to grasp. 

No doubt there were occasions on which this " lay control " 
had its advantages ; but, when one considers how much must 
depend on the point of view from which the case was laid 
before the Court, one cannot but feel that it lay in the power 
of so singularly-constituted a body to defeat the very end 
for which it was created. 

From S. J.-B.'s point of view then, as we have seen, two 
hurdles had been successfully passed ; but the dangers of the 
third may be estimated from the fact the importance of 
which she as an outsider could not possibly gauge that 
her avowed and implacable opponent, " our Nestor," Dr. 
Robert Christison, was the only Professor and the only 
medical man who had a seat on the University Court. He 
had in fact the unique distinction of belonging to every body 
by which the interests of the women had to be decided, viz. 
the Medical Faculty, the Senatus, the University Court, the 
University Council, and the Infirmary Board. 

Add to all this that he was a respected and representative 
citizen, one who made a strong appeal to the religious and 
church-going public. " No man," said Professor Masson 
about this time, " walks the streets of Edinburgh whom I 
more respect ; . . . but this is not the first time, and I suppose 
it will not be the last, when grave and wise men will be found 
defending a dying tyranny." 

Professor Masson's feeling for the great man was destined 
to be sorely tried. 

It will surprise no one, then, to learn that on April Ipth, 



246 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

the following resolution was passed at a meeting of the Uni- 
versity Court held, as was the custom, in strict privacy : 

" That the Court, considering the difficulties at present standing 
in the way of carrying out the resolution of the Senatus, as a tem- 
porary arrangement in the interest of one lady, and not being pre- 
pared to adjudicate finally on the question whether women should 
be educated in the medical classes of the University, sustains the 
appeals and recalls the resolution of the Senatus." 

"As a temporary arrangement in the interests of one lady." 
Supposing that the decision of the University Court was 
really to be taken at its face value, so to speak, it was one 
of which nobody could fairly complain. Was it not simply 
another way of saying, " If this counsel or this work be of 
men it will come to nought " ? For, although it be true 
that " God and one man make a majority," the fighter who 
has God on his side does not indefinitely remain alone, even 
so far as his fellow men are concerned. 

The mere fact of the adverse decision is recorded in the 
diary almost without comment. One is glad to think that 
when S. J.-B. received the news she was among her friends in 
the south, and no longer so dependent on the lonely solace 
of an unwritten page. On April 26th she wrote to Dr. Sewall : 

" You will have seen my bad news in the papers I sent you on 
Saturday, I can no longer urge you to come and settle in Edinburgh, 
for all my plans there have been overturned again. The University 
Court has actually vetoed the permission given by the Medical 
Faculty and confirmed by the whole Senatus (or conjoined faculties). 

This is very unusual and seems very hard. 

I expect to go to Scotland in a week or two still, to see whether 
nothing can be done about it. If I had any legal standpoint I would 
take the matter into the Courts. 1 If I can't get in at Edinburgh, then I 
shall try Glasgow, etc., but I should very much prefer Edinburgh. . . . 

You see it is very well that I asked you not to talk about Edin- 
burgh to other folks. When I really succeed, you may ' boast ' as 
much as you please ! I am sure that anything I ever do in Medicine 
will be all yours. 

" I am so glad that you are prospering so well, and getting patients 
sent you by the men. Thank you for all the papers you send me, 
when you send whole papers, do mark the paragraph. . . , 



1 This suggestion had been made to her by one of the legal professors. 



A CHECK 247 

I am glad you like my Essay. It will be a good deal better when 
it is rewritten, for I have a good deal of new evidence to bring in. 
It may be out in July, or it may wait till October. 

I have had terrible wear and tear to go through the last two months. 
Edinburgh was very very tiring work, to repeat endless arguments 
to an endless succession of people took so very much out of one, and 
then too there was really a great deal to do, and tho' I took cabs 
recklessly I could not but get very tired. . . . 

I am sure you are right about women being fitter to understand 
women. I will put in some more about that. Do you know when- 
ever it comes home to me personally I am more and more amazed 
how women can go to men for uterine treatment. I think that, 
sooner than go to any, I would come across the Atlantic again to 
you. I wish you would let me know how often doctors have sent 
you their own relations. I wish Dr. Cabot or some leading doctor 
would publish a pamphlet or something expressing his strong belief 
in the ' need of women doctors for young girls.' This is the point 
that hits the public hardest, I think. If he could write me a short 
note that I could quote in my Essay, with or without his name, 
I would do so. ... 

There is such a nice girl here, Ursula Du Pre (a sort of con- 
nection of Mrs. Jenkinson's) who would like very much to study 
medicine, but her Mother objects strongly and she is too ill to be 
worried, she thinks. 

It is a thousand pities, for she would make a splendid doctor ; x 
and, being extremely ' well-born,' it would have an excellent effect 
for her to study. She is very anxious to see you, she has fallen 
in love with your picture. I tell everybody that neither that nor 
anything else can tell them how good and sweet you are, my dear 
child. 

Your very aff. S. L. J.-B." 

Meanwhile she was not left without sympathy from those 
whose sympathy was a distinction in itself. On April 5th 
Professor Masson had written : 

" DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

Here is the latest news. The case was to come up today 
before the University Court with these two new elements, of 
which I heard only on Saturday : viz. (i) That Professor Turner has 



1 " Tell me everything that happens," writes Miss Du Pre about this 
time, " so that I may not lose the thread of your history. I think I know 
most of the people's names now, and should not require much explanation. 
You need not tell me in every letter that Sir A. Grant is the Principal. 
I'll try to remember that fact." 



248 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

appealed independently to the Court, and (2) That there is a 
petition against you to the Court by a large number of students 
not gainsaying the propriety of women studying or practising 
Medicine, but laying stress on the difficulty and the injury to male 
students, should a lady student be admitted to open lectures on 
certain medical subjects, so that a Professor should be forced to 
abstain from exhaustive treatment of those subjects. 

It was known at a Senatus meeting on Saturday, that the appeal, 
with these new conditions, might come before the University Court 
today ; and, in view of this, Professor Balfour and myself were 
deputed to appear before the Court and defend the vote of the 
Senatus, representing the reasons of the majority of the Senatus 
for the vote and leplying to any new objections. 

We were at our post for the purpose today ; but the University 
Court whether from an excess of business, or because of a desire 
for delay in this particular question, postponed the consideration 
of your case till the igth of this month. So nothing was done today. 

On the whole I am of opinion that delay will do no harm. Prai. 
Muirhead appeals (as far as I can understand him) not as an enemy, 
but in order that there may be farther discussion. Professor Turner's 
appeal is grounded, I believe, on his own difficulty as regards Anatomy. 
And then there will be time for outside influences, and the considera- 
tions they may induce. . . . 

Had I known in time that I should be deputed to defend the case, 
I would have written to you to request suggestions. As it is, there 
is plenty of time now, and what occurs to me immediately is that 
any facts showing the prevalence of right opinion in British Society 
(both Whig and Tory) might be converted into argument. Please 
write to me anything that you can collect on this head, i.e. facts 
and names to prove that the tendency to open the profession to 
women is approved by eminent and representative personages, of 
different political opinions, throughout the country. 

I will write again. Meanwhile, with doubled zeal for all that 

has happened, I am, 

resolutely Yours, 

DAVID MASSON. 

P.S. Prof. Balfoui received this morning a letter from the Medical 
Dean at Zurich of very satisfactory tenor." 

" 3, Rosebery Crescent, 

April aoth, 1869. 
DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I regret to have to tell you that it went against you at the 
University Court yesterday. After the three appellants (Profs. 
Muirhead, Turner and Lay cock) had been heard on the one side, 
and Prof. Balfour and I on the other, we left the Court to their 



A CHECK 249 

private deliberations. These were long, and resulted, I understand, 
in an agreement to something Like this effect that considering the 
extreme inconvenience that would attend any present arrangement 
for the end in view, especially when that is demanded for only one 
lady, the Court, without pronouncing on the general question whether 
ladies ought to be educated in the medical classes at the University, 
do not consider it expedient, etc. I tried to get the exact terms of 
the resolution, but, not having seen the Secretary, report the sub- 
stance as it was told me by Principal Sir A. Grant, and Mr. Nicolson. 
The Scotsman of tomorrow will probably have the communicated 
report : if so, I will send it to you. 

Only five of the Court were present, the Principal, Mr. Gordon, 
Dr. Christison, Mr. Phin and Mr. Nicolson. I believe the petition 
of the 1 80 students against you was really the determining argument, 
the Court foreseeing the chance of a disturbance, and not being 
prepared to run the risk. Except two, I rather gathered that those 
present favoured the notion of the medical education of women, if 
circumstances would permit, and, on the whole, what has occurred 
to me, since I learnt the decision, is, that, if a new attempt were to 
be made, on the University of Edinburgh (and I hope there will), 
and if it were to come in the form of a joint and simultaneous applica- 
tion from a few ladies (say from half a dozen to a dozen), then our 
authorities would be obliged to yield and to betake themselves to 
the consideration of the means whereby such a class could be best 
conducted how far along with the men, how far apart. 

Much chagrined at the result, but with the firm conviction that 
youi application and visit have done great good, and led to an 
advance in the right direction beyond what could have been antici- 
pated. 

I am, 

dear Miss J ex-Blake, 

Yours very truly, 

DAVID MASSON." 

" Aberdour, Fife, April aoth. 
DEAR Miss J EX-BLAKE, 

Your letter has followed me to this place, which must be my 
apology for not replying to it at once. I was indeed annoyed at 
the reversal of our judgment in your case at the University Court, 
the more so considering how the Court, at all times a most absurd 
body to review the decisions of the Senate was constituted on that 
particular occasion. I have not a copy of the Universities Act 
with me, and I cannot therefore express any opinion as to whether 
this decision falls under the category of those which are reversible 
by the Queen in Council. If it does belong to this category I should 



250 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

say that your best course was at once to carry it there, and I should 
say, with the majority you had both in the Medical Faculty and in 
the Senatus, that the reversal of the decision of so very insignificant 
and prejudged a body as the Court was which judged of your case 
was pietty nearly certain. If this cannot be done which Masson 
or Playfair or Sir A. Grant will at once tell you, then I suspect 
the best thing is to bring the case before the next meeting of the 
University Council. It has no power to decide, but it may recom- 
mend to the University Court, and that will bring the mattei up 
again, and the constitution of the Court can be better looked after 
than it appears to have been this time. It may be also though 
here again I am speaking without the Act, that such a recommen- 
dation could be carried beyond the Court to the Queen in Council. 
Any claim to admission on a legal construction of the Charter would 
involve you in a law-suit which would not be decided for years and 
would cost x = s. ! ! Against that course I have no hesitation in advis- 
ing you, as a question of personal interest and comfort, though of the 
legal merits of the question I can say nothing. I certainly, in your 
case, however, would lose no time in seeing the Lord Advocate. 
Substantially, I think he will be with you, and his advice in all such 
matters is of great value, and will, I feel sure, be willingly given. 

Mrs. Lorimer joins me in very kind regards, and in sympathy 
for the annoyance which you are subjected to, and I am, 

Yours very faithfully, 

J. LORIMER." 

In a later letter Professor Lorimer says : 

" There is one point on which I find I am with you against many 
of my colleagues even those who are guided by reason and not 
by tradition, viz. as to whether Medicine ought to be taught to ladies 
separately, or in the open classes along with the male students. 
As regards the question of delicacy, I am clearly and strongly of 
opinion that in holding the latter view your female instincts have 
guided you right. The root of indelicacy is immodesty, and the 
root of immodesty is immorality, and the arrangement that would 
in my opinion be immodest, and might be immoral, would be that 
such subjects should be taught by one man to one woman. The 
faither you recede from that arrangement, the more you separate 
yourself from the circumstances in which according to a well-known 
legal brocard, ' charity ceases.' 

The opposite pole as it seems to me, is the teaching of science 
publicly in an open class, irrespective of the sex, age, or other 
peculiarities of the audience ; and mindful only of truth. 

I am aware, however, that there are other considerations which 
influence Sir Alexander Grant, and other members of Senatus who 



A CHECK 251 

would probably agree with me on this point. If young men and 
women were thrown together daily, they say, imprudent marriages 
and the like would come of it. Even here, however, I think the 
balance of evil is on the existing arrangement, and not on that 
which you propose to substitute for it. I have not seen Mr. Mill's 
' Subjection of Women ' and I don't go in much for that sort of 
thing, but I cannot see why greater harm should come of men and 
women meeting at their occupations than at their amusements ; 
and I think imprudent marriages are just as likely to come of croquet 
parties and riding-lessons as of medical lectures. 

As in later life one is sometimes apt to be deceived as to one's 
earlier feelings, I asked a young bachelor whom most Edinburgh 
Mamas would not consider ' an imprudent marriage ' what his feelings 
were on the subject ; and his reply was ' Anything rather than 
those dreary balls and idiotic evening parties which at present 
afford the only occasions on which men who go in for work in the 
early part of the day can make the acquaintance of persons of the 
other sex.' 

It can scarcely be doubted that by working together men and 
women would learn to know, each other better, and that many 
mistakes that are now committed, would be avoided. 

With kind regards from Mrs. Lorimer, believe me, 

Yours very truly, 

J. LORIMER." 

No one who has grasped something of S. J.-B.'s character 
will imagine that she was likely to mistake a check for a 
checkmate, though she sometimes made the converse mistake. 
She seems to have had some little correspondence with Pro- 
fessor (afterwards Sir Lyon) Playfair, for the following letter 
is among her papers : 

" Athenaeum Club, 

London, zoth May, 1869. 
DEAR Miss BLAKE, 

I was much obliged by the list of women graduates and 
grieved at the result of your case in Edinburgh. 

There is no power of appeal against the decision of the University 
Court. You had overcome the prejudices of the profession, but 
not those of the students. With their strong opposition the Uni- 
versity Court could not possibly decide otherwise, for Scottish 
Universities, without endowments, cannot go in face of the Con- 
stituency by which they are supported. It would not do to ruin 
classes by the admission of one pupil against the opinion of all the 
others. Though I regret the result, I am not surprised at it. In 



252 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

the face of this prejudice, the only hope that I see is for intending 
female graduates presenting themselves in sufficient numbers to 
induce the Universities to give them a separate education though 
a common graduation. 

Yours truly, 

LYON PLAYFAIR." 

" What I thought and think," wrote Sir Alexander Grant, 
" is that if a sufficient number of ladies could be found to 
constitute a small extra-academical class in medical subjects, 
the University of Edinburgh would be willing to make arrange- 
ments for the teaching of such a class, and to examining the 
lady pupils with a view to awarding them medical degrees." 

In her diary S. J.-B. writes, 

" Tuesday, May nth. . . . Wrote today to ask to see Goschen, 
see if anything can be made of appeal." 

" Friday. Saw Goschen, who will have the Act ' looked up ' 
about appeals. Lord Advocate also to ' write.' Slept at Hamp- 
stead Heath." 

" Saturday. Croquet. Came to Brighton by noon train." 

She used to recall many years later how on these much- 
prized visits to the Corderys, some of the young folks got 
up at 6 o'clock in the morning to have another game of 
croquet before the work of the day began. 

" Wednesday. Met U. at Waterloo Bridge. It did me good to 
see her. Had just heard ' No appeal ' from Moncrieff, and no 
support except for private classes from Grant." 

Here then she was obliged to stop and take breath. Failure ? 
Surely not. I think no one can view the subject all round, 
as we have done in the foregoing chapters, realizing some- 
thing of the forces that were arrayed against her without 
a feeling of amazement that she should have accomplished 
so much. Whatever the mistakes and failures of her subse- 
quent life, that first campaign must surely be pronounced 
an astonishing success. 



CHAPTER V 

i 

OPENING OF EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY TO WOMEN 

THE results of the campaign, duly chronicled in the Scotsman, 
filtered through into other papers, and a certain amount of 
public interest was the result. Before many days had passed 
the following letter came to nerve a possibly flagging arm : 

" 8 Bedford Square, W.C. 

May i5th. 69. 
MADAM, 

I venture to write to you as I see that the decision of the 
University Court at Edinboro is based on the fact that they do 
not feel justified in making ' a temporary arrangement in the interest 
of one lady.' I also gather from the article in the Scotsman on the 
subject of your application that you are desirous that in some cases 
private instruction should be taken instead of compulsory attendance 
at the public classes. 

As these are your views, I should be glad, if you renew your 
application, to join you in doing so, and I believe I know two or 
three other ladies who would be willing to do the same. . . . 

Trusting you will pardon my troubling you on account of the 
great interest I feel in promoting the entrance of women into the 
medical profession, believe me, Madam, 

Yours truly, 

ISABEL THORNE. 
Miss J ex-Blake. 

A few days later came an equally interesting letter from 
Mrs. Butler : 

" Your Essay is in Macmillan's hands. You will receive a pi oof 
soon. I have asked him also to let me see one, and to let you have 
a duplicate to send to America. 

I read it once again before sending it away. It is well worth 
while to have included in it so much research. It gives one strongly 



254 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

the impression while reading it, how much the present male monopoly 
of the profession is an innovation ; also how at all times women 
seem to have striven to assert their right to a share in the healing 
art. I cannot help hoping the publication of your Essay may be 
the beginning of a new social era in those matters. God grant that 
it may I 

It is indeed most trying to be kept back so long by the difficulty 
of getting leave to do good and to toil. O England, what a wicked 
amount of conservatism of selfish customs have you to answer for ! 
I daresay to yourself your life must appear sometimes to be being 
wasted but it is not so. In every good cause there must be martyrs 
and pioneers, who, with gifts for more, have had the hard task of 
opening the way for others to work. I saw a Miss Pechey at Leeds, 
who wishes to become a doctor, and Miss Wolstenholme told me 
of a lady she knows who is studying. 

I don't think the story about the Greek lady at all indelicate. I 
hope no one else will think so. Is it not strange how people cry 
out at the indelicacy of speaking of a thing which it is far more 
indelicate should exist, and yet to its existence they have no objection. 

In a later letter she says : 

"... Have you seen Miss Pechey ? She did not seem to me very 
clever, but very steady and nice, a silent, quiet woman." 

One knows the fine reserve under which Edith Pechey's 
great gifts lay hidden. " I only wish," wrote a friend who 
knew her well, "that there were 12 more like her ready to 
begin." 

This is what Miss Pechey had to say for herself : 

" Before deciding finally to enter the medical profession, I should 
like to feel sure of success not on my own account, but I feel that 
failure now would do harm to the cause, and that it is well that at 
least the first few women who offer themselves as candidates should 
stand above the average of men in their examinations. 

Do you think anything more is requisite to ensure success than 
moderate abilities and a good share of perseverance ? I believe 
I may lay claim to these, together with a real love of the sub- 
jects of study, but as regards any thorough knowledge of those 
subjects at present, I fear I am deficient in most. I am afraid I 
should not without a good deal of previous study be able to pass 
the preliminary exam, you mention, as my knowledge of Latin is 
small and of Euclid still less. Still, if no very extensive knowledge 
of these is required (and doctors generally seem to know very little 
of them) I could perhaps be ready by the next exam., and the study 



EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY OPENED TO WOMEN 255 

of Carpenter at the same time would be a relaxation. Could you 
give me any idea when the next matriculation exam, will be held, 
and whether candidates are examined in all the books of Euclid. 
If I thought I could prepare myself in time for this, I think I could 
arrange pecuniary and other matters so as to enter in October as 
you advise ; and, though for some reasons I should prefer to wait 
another year, yet, as I am nearly 24, it will perhaps be better to lose 
no time. 

Allow me to thank you for your kindness in assisting me with 
your advice. I feel especially grateful as I have no friend able to 
supply the information I need. 

Believe mo, dear Madam, 
Yours sincerely, 

EDITH PECHEY." 

We know how warmly S. J.-B. felt that the thanks were 
not all on the side of her unknown correspondents, and she 
would have felt this even more if she had known the sheer 
value as human beings of her first two recruits. Taking 
the trio together, one simply could not have wished for abler 
representatives of a struggling cause. 

Meanwhile a new avenue of hope had opened quite unex- 
pectedly ; Mrs. Jex-Blake had been seriously ill, and her 
daughter had taken her to consult Dr. King Chambers. 

" I liked Dr. Chambers very much," she writes to Dr. Sewall. 
" I first had a talk with him alone, and told him I was study img 
Medicine, about which he was very kind. He seemed to think 
that if women were willing to pay for separate Anatomical teaching, 
they could get into almost any of the London schools, and promised 
to enquire about his own school, St. Mary's. I doubt whether 
the way is quite so open as he thinks, but I shall be very glad to 
hear his report, and meanwhile shall go on to Edinbro' and see what 
can be done there by way of a separate class. It would be a much 
greater thing in the end to get the Univeisities open, for of course 
the other medical schools feed Apothecaries' Hall and the College 
of Surgeons, and do not give the M.D. 

I think it very possible that by guaranteeing some sufficient fees 
for two or three courses (whatever the number of pupils) we could 
get the thing tried, and, when once publicly done, I am sure numbers 
would flock in. I had rather borrow and spend some money a bo 
it than be bothered any more. But of that I can tell you more 
next week." 



256 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

In her diary she writes (June ipth) : 

" After opposite advice from Mrs. Butler (for St. Mary's), and 
Salzmann (Edinbro') and much deliberation, decided for ' baith, my 
lord.' The petition to go today to Dr. Chambers (signed by Miss 
Pechey and Mrs. Thome), mine to Senatus on 25th. and to Univer- 
sity Court July 5th. 

Dr. King Chambers spared himself no trouble in the matter. 

" I have got over the chief difficulty," he writes, " viz., that of 
engaging the Anatomy lecturer, Mr. Arthur Norton, to undertake 
a class of ladies. There is also a room they could have for dissecting, 
and arrangements may be made with the porter's wife to take care 
of their cloaks and attend to their comforts. The other lecturers 
shall be approached in due course, but I think Mr. Norton is the 
chief one to be considered. What number of ladies can you get 
to form a class ? " 

A fortnight later, however, he is obliged to write : 

" DEAR MADAM, 

I fear you will be disappointed with the result of my applica- 
tion to the School Committee of St. Mary's. It was a full meeting 
which had been already called on another subject ; so I took the 
opportunity of getting as many of my colleagues as possible to 
freely state their opinions. And the result is my agreeing with the 
idea you expressed in your note, that the most insuperable of your 
difficulties lay in the direction of the students to which I may 
add their parents and guardians ; of whom, as customers, private 
firms in the position of the medical schools of London, must stand 
in awe. Such a sort of partnership is essentially opposed to change, 
as, if even a minority object to a novelty, their colleagues shrink 
from forcing it upon them. 

It seems hard that British women should be sent abroad to get 
that of which there is such abundance at home, but circumstances 
seem to render this inevitable. 

Repeating my regrets that I should have deluded you with false 
hopes, I am 

Yours faithfully, 

T. K. CHAMBERS." 

It is pleasant to note that, if S.J.-B. failed to get from 
Dr. Chambers the thing she wanted at the moment, she had 
at least found in him a lifelong friend and helper. 

It was well that she had decided for " baith, my lord." 
She now once more approached the University Court in the 



EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY OPENED TO WOMEN 257 

person of its President, the Rector, asking whether they would 
remove their present veto in case arrangements could be 
made for the instruction of women in separate classes ; and 
whether in that case women would be allowed to matriculate 
in the usual way, and to undergo the ordinary examination, 
with a view to obtaining medical degrees in due course. 

She also wrote to the Senatus, asking them to recommend 
the matriculation of women as medical students on the under- 
standing that separate classes should be formed : and she 
addressed a letter to the Dean of the Medical Faculty offering 
on behalf of her fellow-students and herself to guarantee 
whatever minimum fee the Faculty might fix as a remunera- 
tion for these separate classes. 

" I appreciate your truly kind and thoughtful plans with regard 
to the pecuniary arrangements," writes Miss Pechey in this connec- 
tion. " I shall be sorry if my means will not allow me to take a 
full share of the expenses, but I am afraid I shall not be able to 
afford more than double the usual fees for a man." 

S.J.-B. had returned to Edinburgh in order to further 
arrangements, and to meet any difficulties that might arise. 
The first thing to be done was to secure teachers, and, now 
that it came to the point, some even of those who had been 
most favourable showed a singular reluctance to take the 
plunge. Their enthusiasm had had time to cool. 

" June 26th . . . Today went to see A. Most disappointingly 
timorous, ' could not give the extra time himself,' though he did 
not refuse to see the importance and responsibility of the case. 
I hope he will vote for me still. 

B. very disappointing, very avaricious, trying for the 100 
guineas. 

Balfour, out. 

I very disheartened and weary. . . . 

I do fear failure now, indeed it seems to me probable, in Medical 
Faculty. 

And then all the time and effort wasted since March ist ! A 
year's steady work would have been less strain ! . . . 

If one had but faith ! Ought one not to say, ' I fight and work 
my best, God will bring out the best result, let me not prejudge 
what is best. 

And so be content either way." 

R 



258 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

" June 3oth. Christison has had to go to London, wrathfully 
enough they say, hurrah ! I hear that he asked to have the day 
changed, and that Balfour refused, the brick ! 

Of course this adds to my chances. 

Also I had a long crack with Turner this morning. He did not 
speak against it as in his own person, only evidently thought how 
awful it would be if ' odium were thrown ' on two professors for 
refusing perhaps what others had granted. I suggested that it might 
perhaps be more awful to refuse all women for the sake of that. 

9 p.m. The 40 lines of Virgil written out [in preparation for 
the matriculation examination that as yet was a more than doubtful 
prospect], eyes and head weary. (Oh, dear, ' it is not good for man 
to be alone.') 

By this time tomorrow Medical Faculty at least decided. 

Thrown back utterly again ? Today for the first time since 
Friday I hope a little. (Something of the Caliban in me says, 
" Unlucky to say so ! ') " 

" July ist. Yesterday O. H.'s ' Two Poor Courts ' interested 
me much. 

7 p.m. Won after all ! and I do think this must be at last ' the 
beginning of the end.' For me 4 out of 6 : Balfour, Bennett, 
Spence, M' Lagan. Turner would not vote dead against it, as 
Laycock wished, so those two did not vote, but Laycock ' pro- 
tested '. . . . 

Allman absurdly wroth (to Masson) about canvassing and unjusti- 
fiable, etc., etc., seeming to mean that my poor little calls on people 
had interfered with their judicial wisdom. 

Just seen a letter from A. G. J. I must hear that organ at Lucerne 
(with its storm, etc.) before I die." 

" Friday, July and. ... 6 p.m. Hurrah ! The Senate granted my 
request without limitation and without division, though M'Pherson 
tried to get up a motion for delay, no one (not even Turner !) 
would second him. Turner wished to have it recorded that he 
' did not vote,' but as no vote had to be taken this could not be, 
so he reluctantly had it recorded that he ' dissented,' which I 
regret, for I am sure that it is more than he wished. 

Present, 14. Grant, M'Pherson, Lorimer, Masson, Wilson, Tait, 
Kelland, Craufurd, Liston, Stevenson, Balfour, Bennett, Spence, 
Turner." 

" Monday. The day ! Even now (4.30 p.m.) a University of 
Britain may be literally open to women, if so, won't that have 
been worth doing ? 

When I say to Alice, ' The University Court may still stop it all,' 
' They'd better not ! ' quo' she ferociously." 



EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY OPENED TO WOMEN 259 

What actually happened at the University Court this time 
is best related in a letter to Dr. Lucy Sewall : 

" Maitland Street, Edinburgh. 
July 6th, 69. 

MY DARLING, 

You may address to me here for a fortnight after you get 
this, for I expect now to be here till about August isth. 

The Medical Faculty and the Senatus have both voted in favour 
of special classes in the University for Women, and the University 
Court at their meeting yesterday passed a vote in favour of the 
measure. It seems however that there are some legal difficulties 
about the old Charter, etc., and that the matter will require the 
sanction of the Privy Council, which will cause delay, but I think 
no real difficulty, for the Queen is known to be favourable to women 
doctors ; and the present government is specially liberal. Indeed 
it has this real advantage that it will make the whole thing very 
public and very safe and permanent, so that it will be almost 
impossible ever again to exclude women. 

So now I am looking forward to years of steady work here, and 
am so very glad to be able to do so ! 

I am working at my Latin, etc., for the Matric. examination. It 
would astonish the women studying in Boston to see the examination 
that we have to pass here before we can even begin Medicine, 
and it is a capital thing, because it will keep out ignorant and silly 
women to a great degree. . . . Oh, dear child, it is so nice to look 
forward to having you here next summer to see and know all about 
it. You will so enjoy Edinburgh. I have been thinking about 
taking rooms or a house lately, and I keep saying to myself, ' You 
must have a room full of sun for my doctor ! ' It is so good to look 
forward to seeing you. . . . 

Have you seen Mill's Subjection of Women ? Your Father 
would delight in it. I mean to send him a copy as a remembrance. 

I am very glad to see that the British Medical Journal encourages 
the opening of classes for women. I shall send you the number. 

I am only anxious now to have a good big class of women and of 
a creditable kind. . . . How I wish that you would come and settle 
here ! You could establish a Dispensary at once, and have all us 
students at your orders. We shall want sadly some teaching of 
that sort. . . . This climate would be so much better for you, and 
I should feel so much happier about you if you were here. I know 
if you are in Boston, I shall worry about you all winter. . . . 

Well, Goodbye, my dear child ! Whether you come or stay, all 

good be with you ! 

Your very an. 

S. L. J.-B." 



26o SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

The reader will scarcely be surprised to learn that when 
on July 23rd the University Court formally acceded to her 
petition, S.J.-B. was almost too tired to feel elated, though 
she admits that she would be " grieving bitterly had things 
been otherwise." In addition to her other work, she had 
spent a fortnight in the house of a very dear friend, nursing 
several serious cases of scarlet fever. Trained nurses for 
private houses were almost unknown in those days, and she 
did not spare herself. On July Qth she had written to ask 
Mrs. Thorne who was in Aberdeen at the time to join her 
in Edinburgh. " I won't take the whole responsibility 
alone," the responsibility of engaging lecturers and guaran- 
teeing fees, she confides to her diary. The grasshopper 
had become a burden. Even the modest amount of Latin 
required for the Matriculation Examination was a great effort 
to her, and she knew of old the importance of husbanding her 
strength. 

" Most folk," she says with great truth and pathos, " or at 
least many, have only their indolence to strive with. If they conquer 
that, all serene. I (after that done) have to pause half way, 
ware crash ! and to calculate nicely how much brain force I dare 
bring to bear or use up. 

Ah, well, shall my strength be as my day, or isn't it fair to 
apply that to self-imposed work ? " 

" Self-imposed ? " There is a big question involved here. 
No doubt the readers of this book will answer it in different 
ways. 

In any case she had achieved her task. Notwithstanding 
a direct negative, moved by the Revd. Dr. Phin, the resolu- 
tion of the Unveirsity Court was approved by the General 
Council on October 29th, 1869, and was sanctioned by the 
Chancellor on November 1 2th, The following regulations, 
drawn up by the Court, were officially issued at the same 
date, and inserted in the Calendar of the University : 

" (i.) Women shall be admitted to the study of medicine in the 
University ; (2.) The instruction of women for the profession of 
medicine shall be conducted in separate classes, confined entirely 
to women ; (3.) The Professors of the Faculty of Medicine shall. 



EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY OPENED TO WOMEN 261 

for this purpose, be permitted to have separate classes for women ; 
(4.) Women, not intending to study medicine professionally, may 
be admitted to such of these classes, or to such part of the course 
of instruction given in such classes, as the University Court may 
from time to time think fit and approve ; (5.) The fee for the full 
course of instruction in such classes shall be four guineas ; but in 
the event of the number of students proposing 'to attend any such 
class being too small to provide a reasonable remuneration at that 
rate, it shall be in the power of the Professor to make arrangements 
for a higher fee, subject to the usual sanction of the University Court. 
(6.) All women attending such classes shall be subject to all the 
regulations now or at any future time in force in the University as 
to the matriculation of students, their attendance on classes, Examina- 
tion or otherwise ; (7.) The above regulations shall take effect as 
from the commencement of session 1869-70." 

This is how the " first British University " the University 
of Edinburgh was thrown open to women. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE HOPE SCHOLARSHIP 

THE month of August brought some rest and refreshment, 
though S.J.-B. remained in Edinburgh to "coach" for the 
Matriculation Examination. Mrs. Burn Murdoch put her 
spacious and comfortable house for a little time at the solitary 
student's disposal, and, to S.J.-B. 's great joy, Miss Du Pre 
came to visit her. 

There were delightful excursions up the Forth, through the 
Trossachs, and even farther afield, and S. J.-B. spent what 
is now known as a week-end, at his country-place, with Mr. 
Findlay of the Scotsman, and his wife. One realizes by many 
little indications how her views on the whole question of 
women were becoming explicit. In the course of her visit, 
her host showed her letters he had received from a clever 
American woman a journalist of sorts, apparently in the 
course of which she asked him to " help the little woman," 
14 the wee bit thing." " When will women learn," says 
S.J.-B., "if they claim to stand on common ground at all, 
to ' stand upright,' to ask only ' fair field and no favour ' 1 " 

On October loth she moved into No. 15 Buccleuch Place, 
" the house nice, airy, wholesome, roomy, rent, taxes and 
all probably 45," and, on the following day Miss Pechey 
lunched with her. A week later S.J.-B. sums the new comrade 
up: 

" I think her strong, ready -handed, with ' faculty,' great ability, 
resolution, judgment ; great calmness and quiet of manner and 
action, and probably strength of feeling ; good taste, good manner ; 
very pleasant face ; rather good feet and hands ; considerable 



THE HOPE SCHOLARSHIP 263 

sense of humour ; lots of energy and interest in things, witness 
dissecting the slugs, keeping caterpillars, etc. In fine, as good an 
ally and companion as could well be had." 

She had occasion to add considerably to this estimate as 
life went on, but in no wise to subtract from it. 

Meanwhile Mrs. Evans had resolved to throw in her lot 
with the little band, and S. J.-B. was coaching her in Arith- 
metic. Miss Chaplin (afterwards the wife of Professor Ayrton) 
had also joined their ranks, and it was a gallant and creditable 
little phalanx that made its way up to the University on 
October ipth to undergo the Matriculation Examination. 

Of course they all passed, and passed far above the aver- 
age, though there was one " narrow squeak " in Arithmetic. 
They were all cultivated women, all on their mettle, and' 
the result was scarcely more than might reasonably have 
been anticipated. " We believe, " as a local paper had 
occasion to say, after a similar result some ten months 
later, 

" We believe that these results prove, not that women's capacities 
are better than those of men, a thing that few people would assert, 
but that these women who are devoting themselves to obtain, in 
spite of all difficulties, a thorough knowledge of their profession, are 
far more thoroughly in earnest than most of the men are, and that 
their ultimate success is certain in proportion. Nor would we omit 
the inference that, this being so, those who wantonly throw obstacles 
in the way of this gallant little band, incur a proportionately heavy 
responsibility, as wanting not only in the spirit of chivalry, but even 
in the love of fair play, which we should be sorry to think wanting 
in any Briton." * 

It was natural, however, that friends and well-wishers 
should be not a little elated. Here is one of many delight- 
ful letters : 

" Oct. 22, 1869. 

MY DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

This is just one word of warmest congratulation from us 
both to you and the other ladies. We are rejoicing more than I 
can tell you over the results of the examination. I have been a 
prisoner today with a severe cold, or I should have been unable to 
rest until I had shaken hands with you. Shall you be at home any 

1 Daily Review, Aug. 5, 1870. 



2(54 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

time tomorrow after one o'clock ? If so, I shall like to come and 
see you and Miss Pecbey. 

Do send me a line to tell me if you are as happy as I fancy you. 
Yours faithfully, 

E. ROSALINE MASSON. 

Mr. Masson was very much gratified by the papers of the ladies. 
They fully justified his highest hopes." 

From diary : 

" Tuesday, Nov. 2nd. ' The deed of life was done ! ' This 
morning, 11.30 a.m., I, S.L.J.-B., first of all women, matriculated 
as ' Civis Academiae Edinensis ! ' Tonight for the first time 5 
women are undergraduates ! Hurrah ! 

' With exactness grinds He all.' " 

" I do indeed congratulate you undergraduates with all my heart," 
wrote Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, who had now settled in London. 
" It seems to me the grandest success that women have yet achieved 
in England ; it is the great broad principle established that con- 
ducts to every noble progress. 

I feel as if I must come up to Edinburgh in the course of the winter, 
to see and bless the class ! Perhaps towards the close of the term 
would be best, advise me." 

So began a winter's work that for most, if not all, of the 
women students, was an experience of extraordinary interest 
and happiness. S.J.-B. and Edith Pechey had settled 
together in Buccleuch Place, and the house was a rendezvous 
for a choice little circle. It would be difficult to say which 
of the two proved the greater attraction to their friends. Miss 
Pechey was younger, more adaptable, less obviously alarming, 
though possibly more critical really, in proportion as she had 
seen less of life. The reader is already aware that 
S.J.-B., though a most interesting person to live with, was 
not by any means always an easy person to live with, particu- 
larly when she was overworked and overstrained. For her 
friends as well as herself it was sometimes a question in 
her own significant words of, " Ware crash 1 " Moreover, 
although she often gave to others the advice, " Glissez, 
mortels : n'appuyez pas ! ", she not infrequently failed to 
act on it herself : she still, as when a child, staked her happi- 
ness too readily on matters that might better have been 



THE HOPE SCHOLARSHIP 265 

regarded as trifles : and this is a characteristic that becomes 
a more serious factor in domestic and social life as the years 
go on. On the other hand, when she really " let herself go " 
in her most intimate circle, there was no one like her. The 
diary and the letters give scarcely an indication of the sense 
of humour and fun that were so ready to bubble over into 
real whole-hearted laughter. The eyes so familiar with sorrow 
could still sparkle with merriment like a child's, and, when 
anything struck her as irresistibly preposterous or comical, 
she had a way of " tossing them up to the ceiling and catching 
them again " that was a joy to behold. Increasingly as life 
went on, she was a touchstone on which to test the things 
that might be said, the stories that might be told. She could 
enjoy a joke that would have shocked many women of her 
generation ; but, as her Mother had said long before, " any- 
thing impure ran off her mind like quicksilver," and she was 
a past master in the art of calling home a conversation that 
was lingering too long in permissible bye-ways. 

More than this, even at the time of which we are writing, 
she was one of those with whom people know instinctively 
that it is safe to speak, not only of the great things of life, 
but of the disgraceful things, or the small disconcerting 
things that want to be looked at in an atmosphere of great- 
ness. She was a Mother Confessor to many. " Now straight 
into the fire ! " she says in her diary of certain letters she 
had received ; and the smoke of that sacrifice meant some- 
thing, for born chronicler as she was it was pain and grief 
to her to destroy a letter at any time. 

She was particularly happy that winter term. On the 
last night of the year she writes in her diary : 

" 11.30 p.m. The long tangle of accounts unravelled at last ! 
' after long travail, good repose ! ' 

In more senses than one. 

Nine years since that look from the window, ' And may the 
New Year cherish.' 

Since then I suppose no such (visibly) important year in my 
life. One very dear friend won, one strong ally, Edinburgh 
opened ! What if one is a little tired ? ' After long travail good 
repose ! ' 

I see that a year ago I thought there were no hopes ' now bright,' 



266 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

and ' an hour of joy I knew not was winging its silent flight.' 
Indeed the next six months did cut out their own work. 

The year has been glorious in many ways. 

The chief point of pain. ..." 

The chief point of pain was the fear that she was fickle, 
that the new interests and friendships were making her dis- 
loyal to the strange unearthly friendship for Octavia Hill. 
Whether this would have been blameworthy is a question 
that it is unnecessary to discuss, as the contingency never 
arose. The flame may have flickered and sunk low, but it 
continued to burn for another forty years. Then " after 
long travail good repose." 

And in any case she was very happy that winter term. 
Strangely enough, 1 her family were thoroughly sympathetic 
with her aims. Discussing the volume of Essays to which 
she had contributed, her brother wrote : 

" Miss Cobbe was very vigorous and suggestive : might have been 
longer. So might yours without any risk of the interest flagging ; 
and more details of fact would (I think) have driven the nail deeper 
in the Philistine's understanding. ... I should say that Mrs. 
Butler's and yours will hit the public hardest ; most dissimilar as 
they are. . . . On the main question, for you personally, I am very 
glad that you are on the medical rails. They are real and solid 
and really lead somewhere. There is more specialty about them 
than in the somewhat vague educational line. They belong to an 
old strong well-paid profession. They tend to the alleviation of 
intense human misery ; and that for a large class of delicate cases 
women when properly trained are the right physicians I have felt 
for years and feel increasingly. Stick to them head and hands and 
feet. Don't be drawn aside into tempting but irrelevant bye-ways. 
You will be very useful and very happy in your work : and to have 
helped to bring about the result that for the years to come girls 
shall not be without the pale of professional and University education, 
shall not waste their best years in chafing at want of elbow room at 
home will be a great and additional satisfaction. Nothing succeeds 
like success, and what you have got to do is to prove that a Lady 
Physician can be trustworthy and a success. Do nothing but your 



1 " Strangely " when compared with the families of her contemporaries. 
" When I told Mamma I had got my certificate," said a former fellow- 
student, " she said ' Have you ? ' When I told Uncle, he said ' What 
good is it ? ' When I told Emily, she said, ' I am very glad to hear it, 
but I am very much surprised.' " 



THE HOPE SCHOLARSHIP 267 

work, and you will do your work well. Of course get hold of the 
widest and deepest Professional education within reach. 

Your aff. brother, 

T. W. J.-B." 

This last point, on which the writer touches so lightly, was 
precisely the rub. 

" Everything is just as we would have it," wrote S. J.-B. at this 
time to Dr. Sewall, " but that Professors are not compelled to lecture 
to us. We have already arranged for two courses for this winter, 
5 lectures a week each, Physiology and Chemistry ; and we are 
now arranging for Anatomy, both in lectures and dissecting. 

As we have to make entirely separate arrangements, the Anatomy 
will be very expensive, about ^100 probably for us five, and of 
this I shall pay about one-third, as two of the students are not at 
all rich. 

Still it is worth any money to get the thing done, and I am only 
thankful that I can spend the money. Of course I borrow it from 
my Mother. 1 My fees for this year will be about ^55 or 60, 
about $400, for the 6 months. 

I have made up my mind to spend if needful 1000 on this busi- 
ness. I feel sure that one does more good in thus concentrating 
one's energies and one's funds to get one thing done thoroughly, 
than in frittering away lots of small sums in charity, Don't you 
think so ? It is a grand thing to enter the very first British Uni- 
versity ever opened to women, isn't it ? 

My dailing, you must come and see us this summer, for, as I tell 
the other students here, the whole thing is due to you primarily ; 
when they say that they feel grateful to me for having worked for 
this, I say, ' Thank Dr. Sewall, she made me care for Medicine, 
and resolve that a thorough education should be open to English- 
women.' So I told Dr. Blackwell too when she said something 
pretty to me. She is very pleased about Edinburgh. 

Well, dear child, I have settled down now for the winter in my 
little new house. It amuses me to hear of your expenses in furnishing. 
The whole I have spent is under 35, about $200, and yet we 
are very comfortable ! 

Miss Pechey is very nice and very clever, you will like her very 
much, and she is excellent company. . . . 

Our classes begin on Nov. 3rd. I am very busy till then. 

Your very aff. 

S. L. J.-B." 

1 Money borrowed from Mrs. Jex-Blake was refunded as strictly as if it 
had been borrowed from a banker. 



268 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Busy indeed she was with the great task of finding lecturers. 
The University of Edinburgh still stood foursquare, and the 
Professors sat in their comfortable chairs, lecturing to enormous 
classes of male students. Looking at the question as a sheer 
matter of business, one asks what inducement had these men 
to lecture to a handful of women students ? S.J.-B., Mrs. 
Thorne and the others might struggle and pinch to raise the 
fees of a dozen or more, but what was that to men of assured 
wealth and position ? men who looked upon a Scots pro- 
fessorship as the topmost rung on the ladder of comfortable 
success, men to whom leisure and peace seemed almost a 
matter of right, an essential part of the prize they had drawn 
in the lottery of life ? Why should they double their work 
for the sake of this paltry pittance ? It was not to be ex- 
pected that they should have a great enthusiasm for the 
cause. How could they ? They might, it is true, have been 
possessed of a high sense of the trust conferred on them by 
their position : but is such a sense in any sphere of life the 
possession of more than the choicest few ? 

As regarded the class in Chemistry, everything had gone 
with delightful smoothness. On July loth, S.J.-B. had 
written in her diary, " Dr. Crum Brown agrees, not a word 
of demur as to fees, good fellow," and a few days later she 
had received a letter from Dresden in which he said : 

" I am convinced that the experiment must be made, and do not 
wish to place any unnecessary obstacles in the way. I therefore 
cordially agree to your proposal, on the understanding that the 
consent of the University Court is obtained, and that the course be 
conducted in the Chemical Class-room of the University, and be in 
all respects the same as the ordinary course of Chemistry." 

So far as the work was concerned, one is glad to think that 
his generosity met with its reward. All the teacher in him 
must have rejoiced in the mettle of the new students. Miss 
Pechey, in particular, simply fell upon Chemistry and 
proceeded to make it her own. In the house of which the 
furnishing had cost 35, she and S.J.-B. rigged up some kind 
of laboratory, and carried on experiments with a keenness 
that to the stern advocate of " limited liability " might well 
have endangered their success in class examinations. 



THE HOPE SCHOLARSHIP 269 

When the winter session came to an end in March, however, 
it was found that Miss Pechey stood third in the entire list, 
and was really first of the first-year students, two of the 
men having attended the class before. There would have 
been nothing calamitous in this state of affairs, had it not 
chanced that there were certain small scholarships involved. 
A previous Professor of Chemistry in the University Dr. 
Hope had made the experiment of delivering a course of 
lectures to ladies, and had devoted the proceeds amounting 
to about 1000 to the founding of four Hope Scholarships, 
which entitled the winners to the "free use of the College 
Laboratory. What this privilege would have meant to a 
born student like Miss Pechey one can easily imagine, but, 
as mixed classes were forbidden, there might have been a 
difficulty scarcely insurmountable about her making full 
use of it. 

Hitherto, as we have seen, the Professor had treated the 
women generously. We know that he bore them no grudge ; 
and it is absurd to suppose that he had any wish to be unjust 
to an engaging, deft-handed girl, with a calm strong face, 
and a brain which he must have already seen to be far above 
the average in either sex, a girl, moreover, who was frankly 
appreciative of her good fortune in having so able a man as 
her teacher. 

One can only conjecture the motives and the advice that 
must have influenced him in the decision to withhold even 
the name of Hope Scholar from this woman, and to give it 
to the man who stood beneath her on the list. In explaining 
his position, the Professor said that, having studied at a 
different hour, she was not a member of the Chemistry Class ; 
but at the same time he awarded to her the official bronze 
medal of the University, to which she could only lay claim 
as a member of that class ; and, in the published list of 
honours, he put her name and those of the other women in 
the place to which their marks entitled them. 

It was a clumsy though well-meaning compromise, 'and 
only led to greater difficulties farther on. Having said that 
the women were not members of the Chemistry Class, how 
could he give them certificates of attendance on that class ? 



270 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

It was obviously impossible, so he offered them written 
certificates of having attended " a ladies' class in the Uni- 
versity," certificates absolutely worthless from the point of 
view of professional examination. One is reminded of the 
strawberry jam labels which Mark Twain offered to the 
conductor of a continental railway when his ticket was worn 
out ; but, unfortunately, the Registrar of a great University 
is not to be appeased with strawberry jam labels. 

In truth the Professor had done the cause an incalculable 
service. A howl of indignation went up over the whole 
country. The Times, the Spectator, a faithful supporter from 
the first, even the British Medical Journal, were genuinely 
roused. The Universities and the Profession had been governed 
by a spirit of Conservatism, of Trades-unionism, of which this 
was but a mild example ; but now at last that spirit had 
become explicit : here was the priceless desideratum of the 
tangible grievance : and it was just like life just the irony of 
fate that the man who provoked the outburst, the man wha 
had to suffer, was not one of the bitter opponents : he was, in 
his own way, the friend and helper of the struggling cause. 
He had taught the women Chemistry, and he had taught them 
well ; and that was the main thing, even though a bronze 
medal, and a few " strawberry jam labels " were for five 
people in deadly earnest to be the only outward and visible 
signs of six months' hard work. 

The matter was referred to the Senatus, who decided by a 
majority of one that Miss Pechey was not entitled to the 
Hope Scholarship, and (on the motion of Professor P. G. Tait) 
also by a majority of one, that the women should have the 
ordinary class certificates. So the women grasped the 
substance, if they did lose the shadow. 

" I agree with you that the one vote stultifies the other," wrote 
Professor Masson, " and I think people are seeing this. At the 
time I made up my mind that the first vote must carry the other 
unfavourably with it ; but it was not for mo to keep the Senatus 
consistent, and, when Tait announced his view, I grasped at the 
unexpected accident and seconded his motion." 

But the outcry was not stilled. In those days the general 
public knew little of the difference between one certificate and 



THE HOPE SCHOLARSHIP 271 

another ; but they had some idea of what was meant by the 
losing of a scholarship, and Miss Pechey became the recipient 
of an amount of condolence that was positively embarrassing 
when compared with the extent of the injury inflicted. The 
skilled appreciation of the situation, however, was delightful. 
This was the tribute of the British Medical Journal : 

" Whatever may be our views regarding the desirability of ladies 
studying medicine, the University of Edinburgh professed to open 
its gates to them on equal terms with the other students ; and, 
unless some better excuse be forthcoming in explanation of the 
decision of the Senatus, we cannot help thinking that the University 
has done no less an injustice to itself than to one of its most dis- 
tinguished students." 1 

One can imagine the effect of criticism such as this on some 
of the professors. Here was a tiresome muddle from which 
it was difficult to see a dignified exit. What wonder if many 
took the cheap and obvious course of exclaiming, " The 
woman that Thou gavest me ! she is at the bottom of it 
all ? " So far as the explanation went, it was perfectly true : 
and of course only a few of the pundits saw today with the 
eyes of tomorrow ; only a few realized that the difficulty 
that was worrying them was a part of a world-wide upheaval 
involving the whole human race. 

Of course there were those who, without taking any ex- 
treme view, were admirably sane and dignified. Instance the 
following letter from Professor Fleeming Jenkin : 

" April sth, 1870. 
DEAR MADAM, 

I regret that I shall be unavoidably absent on Saturday next, 
or, as far as might have been possible, I should have supported 
Miss Pechey's claims. 

I regret my absence the less, however, as it seems to me that the 
legal question of a particular reward is of far less consequence than 
the fact of the position which you and Miss Pechey have taken in 
the class. 

Accept my very hearty congratulations and 
Believe me, 

Yours truly, 

FLEEMING JENKIN. 
Miss Jex-Blake. 

it. Med. Journal, April i6th, 1870. 



272 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

There was a question of referring the matter to the Uni- 
versity Court, but one is glad to think that wiser counsels 
prevailed. Miss Pechey had gone to her home in the country, 
and was listening to the nightingales. 

" Thank you for Masson's letter," she writes to S. J.-B. " He 
is a grand fellow. Wilson has sent me the minutes of the Senatus 
meeting about the scholarship. I suppose I ought to write to him. 
I wish you were here to tell me what to do. 

You understand that I leave you to do as is thought best about 
the scholarship, only remember that my own judgment apart 
from personal feeling is against appealing, and that I do not wish 
to do so unless our friends are very decisively of opinion that we 
ought to." 

Well might Miss Pechey say, "He is a grand fellow." 
Professor Masson-had taken up the cause of the woman as 
wholeheartedly as if it had been a matter of vital import to 
himself. At the next meeting of the General Council of the 
University, he moved (seconded by Professor Balfour) that, 
instead of having separate instruction, women should be 
admitted to the ordinary classes of the University. The 
original draft of the motion was as follows : 

" That, as the present arrangements for the medical instruction 
of women in the University impose great and unnecessary incon- 
veniences on the women who are students, and also on Professors, 
and may, if continued, even nullify the resolution of the University 
admitting women to the study of medicine [and as it will not be 
to the credit of the University that it should pretend to do a thing 
and not do it], 1 the General Council recommend to the University 
Court that women desiring to study medicine be admitted to the 
medical classes as other students are, and on the same terms, except 
in cases where the Court may see special reasons why the instruction 
should be separate." 

" The motion is longish," he says, " but I thought it well to have 
something which, when printed, would explain itself and attract 
attention of members of Council. ... I am the more convinced 
that we do right in moving the General Council as above, even if 
we should lose, because I distinctly perceive a relapse on the part 
of those who had merely acquiesced, and a kind of exulting feeling 
on the part of others that the experience of the session may be 



1 The words in brackets were omitted from the resolution, but intro- 
duced in the speech supporting it. 



THE HOPE SCHOLARSHIP 273 

pleaded in proof that the University perpetrated a troublous blunder 
when it admitted Eve's sex at all. This state of feeling will be 
but temporary ; but it is time that the opposed forces should meet 
in full conflict on the mixed-classes question." 

" Full conflict," indeed, it proved. The opponents brought 
forward arguments that called forth an indignant interrup- 
tion from the Professor of Moral Philosophy (Dr. Calder- 
wood) ; and the Times, while disapproving of mixed classes, 
stated in a leading article : 

" We cannot sufficiently express the indignation with which we read 
such language, and we must say that it is the strongest argument 
against the admission of young ladies to the Edinburgh medical 
classes, that they would attend the lectures of Professors capable 
of talking in this strain." 1 

The motion was lost by 47 votes to 58. 

" No speaking on our side could have changed the vote," wrote 
Professor Masson, " those present were all predetermined. Crum 
Brown did well, and administered a proper reproof to L. Struthers 
was present and voted with us ; so did Nicolson (who was quite 
in earnest when the time came), and Dr. Craufurd, who avows him- 
self a convert. On the other hand, Wilson, Bennett, Charteris and 
Tait, of our side, were absent, reducing our number somewhat. 
People today are consoling me for I was really downcast by 
saying the result was a success in its kind, and an omen of final 
success when the thing comes up again, as it must. All very well ; 
but how shall I console you ? What are you to do this year ? The 
only thing I disliked in Crum Brown's speech was his opening state- 
ment that he thought the motion perhaps premature, the time not 
having elapsed for the experiment of the other method. Premature ! 
This in face of his own refusal to continue, and in face of his sub- 
sequent declaration that the existing method is impracticable ! 
Still he said and did well. What shall I say but that my heart is 
sore for your immediate discomfiture ? Time a year or two 
will rectify the thing generally, here and elsewhere ; but how you 
are to get on with us is the question. Christison, who draws Turner, 
Lister, and Sanders (L. is nothing) with him, seems determined to 
get rid of you, and trusts to effecting this by mere continuance of 
the present arrangement. Whether you can wriggle on with us by 
any ingenuity in the hope of beating him is for your consideration. 

Would it might be so ! 

Ever yours truly, 

DAVID MASSON. 

1 The Times, April 25th, 1870. 
s 



274 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

The view that the result of the motion was a success in 
its kind proved to be a general one, and the matter was dis- 
cussed at great length by newspapers, lay, medical and 
religious. 

" There is no possible reason," said the Guardian* " why a very 
large proportion of instruction may not be given with perfect pro- 
priety to men and women together ; but there are clearly some 
parts in a medical course which cannot be so treated, and there 
ought to be no difficulty whatever in making arrangements for these. 
To provide separate lectures for a few special occasions is a very 
different thing, both in the matter of convenience and expense, from 
insisting on having two distinct and separate courses throughout in 
every department. . . . Professor Masson's motion was defeated, 
but by a majority so small eleven in a meeting of a hundred and 
five that its success at some future time seems certain. Let the 
ladies only add to the exercise of one quality, with which the world 
credits them, that of patience, another, which is supposed to be a 
less common attribute of their sex, perseverance, and they will 
assuredly gain their point." 

" The female students almost deserve this rebuff," said the 
Spectator, 2 " for making the concessions they have done to English 
prudery, concessions not made either in France, Austria, or the 
United States. The only safe ground for them to stand on is that 
science is of no sex, and cannot be indelicate unless made so of 
malice prepense, and that by the very conditions of the profession 
the modesty of ignorance must be replaced by the modesty of pure 
intent." 

It is not to be supposed that the women students were 
fortified by a unanimous chorus of journalistic support : far 
from it : some six or seven months later the Spectator strove 
to understand " the bitter and, so far as we know, the unpre- 
cedented malignity with which women who aspire to be 
Doctors are pursued by the literary class." 

One does not wish to dwell on this. It was simply bound 
to be. As Sir James Stansfeld said seven years later in 
reviewing the whole movement : 

"It is one of the lessons of human progress that when the time 
for a reform has come you cannot resist it, though, if you make the 
attempt, what you may do is to widen its character or precipitate 
its advent. Opponents, when the time has come, are not merely 

1 April 27th. 1870. - April 23rd, 1870. 



THE HOPE SCHOLARSHIP 275 

dragged at the chariot wheels of progress they help to turn them. 
The strongest force, whichever way it seem to work, does most 
to aid." 

It is the more pleasing, however, to record the sane and 
wholesome view taken from the first by the leading responsible 
papers, including Punch. 

" I am very vexed about the General Council," wrote Miss Pechey 
from her home ; " but it's no use worrying, at least so the nightin- 
gale tells me. She sang two hours at my bedroom window last 
night, and said all sorts of pretty things. I wish I could bring her 
to Edinburgh with me, but she wouldn't like it ; besides they are 
a very old family, and have lived in the place from the time of the 
Britons, so she wouldn't like to move. 

Papa did not write to the Scotsman. I knew he wouldn't unless 
someone told him what to say ; and I believe, if the truth were told, 
he still has some lurking prejudice against mixed classes. He isn't 
a bit scientific, never notices the butterflies and beetles in a walk 
unless I point them out to him, and there are lovely ones now, 
peacocks and brimstones and tortoiseshells." 

It is clear that just then Miss Pechey was having a very 
good time. She was the woman of the moment, a lion abroad 
as well as in her country home, and she had the courage and 
the sense to enjoy the position quietly and without making 
a fuss. Moreover both she and S. J.-B. were human enough 
to appreciate the situation all the more because, from the 
ordinary point of view, the heroine was a truly pretty girl, 
as disarming as heroine well could be. 



CHAPTER VII 
PRACTICAL DIFFICULTIES 

PERSEVERANCE " wriggling on " was thus the course re- 
commended to the women by stranger and friend alike. 

The Professor of Botany (Dr. Balfour, formerly Dean of 
the Faculty of Medicine) who had wished to admit them to 
his ordinary class, made arrangements to teach them separ- 
ately. Professor Allmann also had declared his willingness 
to admit S.J.-B. to his class of Natural History (see p. '234) 
but he did not feel able to follow the generous example of 
his colleague in devoting special time and energy to the 
purpose. Fortunately the women had a second string to 
their bow in the person of Dr. Alleyne Nicholson, lecturer in 
the Extra-Mural School, 1 and their application to him called 
forth a letter which shows what the difficulties were which 
even a kindly and open-minded man had to face. 

" April 26th. 1870. 
DEAR Miss BLAKE, 

I have not as yet succeeded in obtaining a positive assurance 
as to the legality of my admitting you to my ordinary class, though 
I no longer entertain any doubt as to my perfect freedom in the 
matter, so far as the University is concerned. I have, however, 
consulted several of my colleagues, and they are tolerably unanimous 
in advising me to submit the question to my class. . . . They 
advise me, namely, not to commence abruptly on Monday without 
any warning, but to give my opening lecture separately, to my 
ordinary class at one o'clock, and to you at 2 p.m. At the con- 
clusion of the hour I should explain to the students how matters 
stand, and should ask their permission to make over to you a bench 

1 Appendix D. 



PRACTICAL DIFFICULTIES 277 

in the general class. This is the advice which is given me, and I 
have no doubt as to its wisdom. 

I am fully aware that this will not be nearly so satisfactory to 
you as unconditional permission on my part ; and I must beg you 
to believe that it is in many respects far from being so satisfactory 
to my own feelings in the matter. If I were a thoroughly independent 
man I can assure you that I should not be deterred from doing 
what I thought right in this question by any fear of the consequences. 
As things really stand, however, I do not feel justified in running 
the risk of losing my ordinary class in whole or in part, as I am 
assured I should do if I were to attempt to introduce this innovation 
wholly without warning. If I knew my class, if I had the opportunity 
of even two or three days' acquaintance with them, I think I should 
have little to apprehend as to their behaviour on any such question 
as this. You will remember, however, that I am dealing with an un- 
known quantity in making up my mind as to the course I shall adopt ; 
and that I am wholly without adequate data to guide me in my deter- 
mination. . . . My present opinion is that whilst I have every wish to 
admit you to my general class, it will be safest for me to submit the 
question to my class and to abide by a decision of the majority." 

Apparently S.J.-B. obtained a verbal, but satisfactory, 
modification of this programme by suggesting that the class 
should be asked " to unite with the lecturer in inviting " the 
women to join them, but that was a mere matter of detail. 
Everything depended on the way in which Dr. Nicholson 
stated the case, and one is not surprised to hear that the 
favourable reply came not from a majority, but from the 
entire class. "So," says S.J.-B., "the first 'mixed-class' 
was inaugurated and continued throughout the summer with- 
out the slightest inconvenience." 

" The course of lectures on Zoology which I am now delivering 
to a mixed class," wrote Dr. Nicholson later in answer to a mistaken 
statement in a medical paper, " is identically the same as the course 
which I delivered last winter to my ordinary class of male students. 
I have not hitherto emasculated my lectures in any way whatever, 
nor have I the smallest intention of so doing. In so acting, I am 
guided by the firm conviction that little stress is to be laid on the 
purity and modesty of those who find themselves able to extract 
food for improper feelings from such a purely scientific subject as 
Zoology, however freely handled." 

This was all very well, but the classes so far obtained were 
mere outposts. The real Giant Difficulty lay with Anatomy 



278 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

and Clinical teaching, and that session's work was compli- 
cated, for S.J.-B. in particular, by a constant undercurrent 
of effort to obtain the necessary teaching. It was essential 
that the teacher, if not a Professor, should at least be recognized 
by the University, and there were representatives of the 
University who were not desirous to make the matter easy. 
Over and over again hopes were raised, only to be disappointed : 
on one occasion the lecturer, after much parleying, had 
actually agreed to do the work and had accepted his fee ; 
but, even at that late stage, he backed out and returned the 
fee with an apology. ("How vexed I was ! " says S.J.-B., 
" thoroughly upset and nervous.") It happened repeatedly, 
too, that the men who would have liked to help had already 
on some other question taken up a position unpopular with 
their more conservative confreres, and simply dared not 
espouse another fighting cause. 

S.J.-B. was urged to go to Zurich and fit herself to teach 
Anatomy ; but what assurance had she what encouragement 
had she even to hope that the University would recognize 
her teaching on her return ? And what were the other 
students a growing number to do in the meantime ? 
Try their fortune elsewhere ? and brave the inevitable, 
" Lo, these who have turned the world upside down are come 
hither also " ? 

Once and again some chivalrous man took up their cause, 
refusing to believe that the difficulty was real ; but little by 
little he was apt to find that the intangible mist of opposition 
was as impervious as an iron wall. 

It was due to Dr. Arthur Gamgee that Dr. Handyside 
finally agreed to admit the women to his ordinary Anatomy 
class and dissecting-room at Surgeons' Hall, provided the 
other lecturers made no objection : and, so far the arrange- 
ments for the following winter session were made. 

" Saturday, [June] 25th. Called on Dr. Watson * (Surgery). He 
signed my petition readily. Thought if we made no difficulty, no 
one ought to about mixed classes, anyone in earnest in his subject 
should be able to teach all students. Of course the teacher should 

1 Afterwards Sir Patrick Heron Watson. 



PRACTICAL DIFFICULTIES 279 

put his foot down, the students followed a beck, and, if invited, 
would of course make a row, etc. . . . 

Saw Keiller too. . . . Was quite favourable as to Handyside and 
mixed classes ; he himself having had students and midwives. ..." 

The question of these mixed classes in the Extra-Mural 
School was technically an infringement of Regulation 2 in 
the Calendar (see p. 260), and in this connection it was duly 
brought before the Senatus of the University, with the proposal 
to refer the matter to the University Court ; but Professor 
Bennett moved, seconded by Professor Tait, " that the Senatus 
see no reason to interfere." This amendment appears to have 
been carried by the casting vote of the Principal. 

" So that's settled," says S. J.-B. 

' ' How fast events go ! I really hope for mixed classes in 
the University before 1871." 

She forgot to allow sufficiently for the fighting force of a 
large minority, led by an angry few. 

Meanwhile that wonderful Mother was following the struggle, 
not indeed with the minute study Miss Du Pre was giving to 
the question, but with the old unfailing sympathy. Like Miss 
Pechey's father, she had been rather staggered at first at the 
thought of mixed classes, but shortly after this she writes : 

" DARLING, 

I don't now at all object to mixed classes. As the teaching 
must at present be given by men, I don't see why there should not 
be mixed classes to listen : and I feel confident if you continue to 
have such a nice set of women, the tone of the young men generally 
will be greatly raised. If mixed classes answer so well at Zurich 
and Paris, why not here ? but I confess to great ignorance." 

Intellectually, the supply of women showed no sign of 
falling short. With the advice and cooperation of Miss 
Garrett, Lady Amberley had offered a scholarship for com- 
petition at the October Matriculation Examination, and 
S. J.-B. proudly jots down the verdict of the examiners on 
their work : 

" ' Miss Barker's Logic paper best ever had from medical students.' 
- ' Miss BovelTs French best in University except one Frenchman's.' 
' Miss Walker had the only 100 per cent, in Mathematics.' 
Classical examiner wrote, ' I was very much struck with the 
accuracy as well as elegance of some papers.' " 



2 8o SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Of course a woman or a man for that matter may pass 
a brilliant examination in Mathematics or Chemistry, and 
yet be unable to keep her head at a difficult midwifery case ; 
and it was perfectly right and fitting that men doctors should 
recognize and even emphasize this fact. One would not have 
wished them to do otherwise. It was fortunate for the 
women, however, that their opponents were apt to state their 
case with a conspicuous want of any sense of humour, as the 
following letter from the Lancet x sufficiently exemplifies : 

" SIR, In all popular movements, however one-sided and irra- 
tional they may seem, there is some foundation of truth, the grain 
of common sense in the bushel of chaff. And so it is with the move- 
ment that is now taking place with respect to the admission of 
women into the rank of medical practitioners. I believe most 
conscientiously and thoroughly that as a body they are sexually, 
constitutionally, and mentally unfitted for the hard and incessant 
toil, and for the heavy responsibilities of general medical and surgical 
practice. At the same time I believe as thoroughly, that there is 
a branch of our profession midwifery to which they might and 
ought to be admitted in a subordinate position as a rule. 

In France, and in many other parts of the Continent, this division 
of labour in Midwifery is fully carried out, and with great advantage 
to both parties to the regular practitioner, who is relieved of part 
of his most arduous, most wearing and most unremunerative duties, 
and to the women who have a vocation for medicine, who are able, 
thus, in large numbers, to gain a respectable living in the profession 
they wish to practise. 

I think I may safely say that there are very few medical men 
who have been ten years in practice, who would not gladly, thank- 
fully, hand over to a body of well-educated and friendly midwifes 
their half -guinea or guinea midwifery cases. To a young practitioner 
there is the charm of novelty, and the desire to improve, which 
make remuneration altogether a secondary consideration. But 
after ten years' practice, often long before, a very decided change 
comes over the spirit of the dream." 

The part of the letter that follows is perhaps too technical 
for quotation ; but the writer continues on the general 
question : 

" I would add in conclusion that, given women of exceptional 
energy, capacity, and intelligence, nothing would be easier than for 

1 June 1 8th, 1870. 



PRACTICAL DIFFICULTIES 281 

them, if deserving, to rise out of the midwifery ranks into a wider 
sphere of activity and worldly success. Let them show by their 
energy, by their writing, by their contributions to the progress of 
medical science, that they had exceptional powers of observation 
and intellect, and fame would soon reach them. It has reached 
the very few women, who, like Mrs. Somerville, have given evidence 
not only of mere ability and talent, but higher powers, the power 
to grasp the more recondite and abstruse teachings of science. But 
even this power the power to master and understand the existing 
state of science does not constitute the characteristic feature of 
the male mind in the Caucasian race. The principal feature which 
appears to me to characterise the Caucasian race, to raise it im- 
measurably above all other races, is the power that many of its 
male members have of advancing the horizon of science, of penetrating 
beyond the existing limits of knowledge in a word, the power of 
scientific discovery. I am not aware that the female members of 
our race participate in this power, in this supreme development of 
the human mind ; at least I know of no great discovery changing 
the surface of science that owes its existence to a woman of our or 
of any race. What right then have women to claim mental equality 
with men ? 

That woman may attain an honourable social position and pecun- 
iary independence in our ranks in the position I point out, is proved 
by a case that came under my observation last year. A German 
lady M.D. in a German University, called on me on her way home 
from San Francisco. She told me that she had been practising 
there as an accoucheur and a ladies' and child's doctor for twenty 
years, had gained a small fortune, and was returning to Germany 
to live and die in quiet. Her history was this : Early in married 
life her husband lost his fortune and became a confirmed invalid. 
She had thus her husband and two children to support. She studied 
midwifery and medicine, took a degree, and then went to America, 
settling at San Francisco. There she placed herself in a subordinate 
position to the medical men, acting with them, under them, and 
consequently supported by them. She had thus lived harmoniously 
with her professional brethren, and had had a career of uninterrupted 
professional success. 

I remain, Sir, your obedient servant, 

HENRY BENNET, M.D." * 

One can imagine the somewhat grim smile with which this 
lucubration was passed round the little band in Edinburgh : 

1 Not to be confused with Dr. Hughes Bennett, who had lectured to the 
women on Physiology. 



282 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

and it is only fair to say that many of their opponents would 
have been glad to cry : " Non tali auxilio, nee defensoribus 
istis ! " The Lancet was not the advocate of the women 
students in those days, and one is glad to record that the 
Editor allowed S.J.-B. the opportunity to reply. Her 
letter is a fair sample of the style of writing that was becoming 
habitual to her, translucently clear, concise and business- 
like, absolutely shorn of the picturesqueness that had 
characterized the writing of her youth. 

" SIR, I see in your columns of June ist, 1870, a letter on ' Women 
as Practitioners of Midwifery,' and appeal to your sense of fairness 
to allow me a fourth part of the space it occupied for a few words 
in reply. 

It is hardly worth while to discuss the early part of the letter, 
as the second paragraph sufficiently disposes of the first. After 
saying that women are ' sexually, constitutionally, and mentally 
unfitted for hard and incessant toil,' Dr. Bennet goes on to propose 
to make over to them as their sole share of the medical profession 
what he himself well describes as its ' most arduous, most wearing 
and most unremunerative duties.' In the last adjective seems to 
lie the whole suitability of the division of labour according to the 
writer's view. He evidently thinks that women's capabilities are 
nicely graduated to fit half -guinea or guinea midwifery cases,' and 
that all patients paying a larger sum of necessity need the superior 
powers of the ' male mind of the Caucasian race.' Let whatever 
is well paid be left to the man ; then chivalrously abandon the 
' badly remunerated ' work to the women. This is the genuine 
view of a trades-unionist. It is well for once to see it candidly 
stated. As I trust the majority of medical men would be ashamed 
of avowing such a principle, and as I am sure it would be indignantly 
disallowed by the general public, I do not care to say more on this 
point. 

But when Dr. Bennet proceeds to dogmatise about what he calls 
our claim to ' mental equality,' he comes to a different and much 
more important question. I for one do not care in the least either 
to claim or disown such equality, nor do I see that it is at all essential 
to the real question at issue. Allow me to state in a few words the 
position that I and, as I believe, most of my fellow-students take. 
We say to the authorities of the medical profession, ' State clearly 
what attainments you consider necessary for a medical practitioner ; 
fix your standard where you please, but define it plainly ; put no 
obstacles in our way ; either afford us access to the ordinary means 
of medical education, or do not exact that we shall use your special 



PRACTICAL DIFFICULTIES 283 

methods ; in either case subject us ultimately to exactly the ordinary 
examinations and tests, and, if we fail to acquit ourselves as well 
as your average students, reject us ; if, on the contrary, in spite 
of all difficulties, we reach your standard, and fulfil all your require- 
ments, the question of ' mental equality ' is practically settled, so 
far as it concerns our case ; give us then the ordinary medical licence 
or diploma, and leave the question of our ultimate success or failure 
in practice to be decided by ourselves and the public.' This is our 
position, and I appeal, not to the chivalry, but to the justice of the 
medical profession, to show us that it is untenable, or else to concede 
it at once. 

I am, Sir, your obedient servant, 

SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE. 

Edinburgh, June 2ist." 1 

Nothing conciliatory here : no appeal for help for " the 
wee bit thing," the appeal that some men in those days 
used to find so disarming : nothing even in the spirit of the 
" Now remember, Daddy dear," of those delightful contro- 
versial letters of her girlhood. It is a fair field and no favour 
with a vengeance now. 

Possibly she might have shortened the battle if she had 
adopted a more conciliatory attitude. One might say the 
same of many of the martyrs. Had she done so, it would 
have meant a smaller battle, a victory far more limited in 
its results. If a new move is being effectively made, it is 
almost always overdone. That is in the scheme of things. 
If there were not faults on both sides, there would be no 
dramatic action, no " story " ; and the world would go on 
its sleepy way, and pay no attention. " Individuals, feeling 
strongly, while on the one hand they are incidentally faulty 
in mode or language, are still peculiarly effective. . . . 
The very faults of an individual excite attention ; he 
loses, but his cause (if good, and he powerful-minded) 
gains. This is the way of things ; we promote truth by 
a self-sacrifice." 

Here then were the opposing forces, duly ranged against 
each other. One can almost imagine the move and counter- 

1 Lancet, July 9, 1870. 



284 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

move that were bound to ensue. And we must not forget 
the element furnished by the great mass of the students 
though there were " individuals " here, too, of course 
on the look out for mischief and fun, rejoicing in a 
row, ready " to follow a beck " as that wise Heron Watson 
had said. 



CHAPTER VIII 
THE RIOT AT SURGEONS' HALL 

S. J.-B.'s medical experience in America had consisted mainly 
of practical hospital work, and that chiefly in connection with 
the special diseases of women. She had done a little dissecting 
in a rough and ready way, and the privilege of what she then 
considered " real teaching " had just been put within her 
reach when she was called home by the illness of her father. 
She had this advantage, however, over her fellow-students, 
she knew that the " horrors " of the dissecting-room have 
only to be faced in a spirit of serious intention in order to be 
dispelled. She knew by experience that one must pull one- 
self together in the first instance for fear of doing irreparable 
damage to the dainty structures that lie almost as cunningly 
hidden in surrounding tissue as the future statue lies in the 
block of marble ; and she knew that, little by little, the 
privilege of laying bare that marvellous" handiwork " becomes 
so enthralling as to make the earnest student oblivious to 
everything else. 

The Anatomy Class began formally in November, but the 
rooms were open and teachers present from the beginning 
of October, for those who cared to attend ; so the women 
had the advantage of meeting in the first instance only the 
keener of the students, or at least those who were working 
with a special object in view. The women would gladly 
have had a separate room, had this been available, but in 
their quiet corner they worked away steadily, forgetful of all 
beyond. And everything went well. Never, the lecturer 
said, had better work been done in his class-rooms. 



286 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Meanwhile influential friends were doing what in them lay 
to forward the interests of the women in other quarters ; for 
it must be remembered that, as matriculated students of the 
University they ought not to have been compelled to study 
in Extra-Mural classes, and indeed it was only a limited 
number of such classes that would be accepted for the Uni- 
versjty degree. On October 28th a motion was brought 
forward in the General Council of the University in favour 
of affording farther facilities to the lady students. The 
motion was met by a direct negative, Professor Christison 
asserting in the course of his speech that Her Majesty Queen 
Victoria had expressed her concurrence in the views that 
had been put forth on a previous occasion by Dr. Laycock 
and himself. If there was any truth in this, one can only 
speculate as to the form in which the story had reached Her 
Majesty's ears, certainly not through the medium of a lead- 
ing article in the Times. What weight her reported opinion 
may have carried it is impossible to say, but, in any case, 
when put to the vote, the negative was carried by 47 to 46. 

(" Well, try again next year ! " says S. J.-B.) 

In reading the whole story, one is struck over and over 
again by the narrowness of the majority by which things were 
turned. Great is the responsibility of the weak and cowardly, 
the lazy and double-minded, the " unstable " who call them- 
selves impartial. 

At this stage, wisely or not, the women were advised to 
apply for permission to work in the wards of the Royal Infir- 
mary. This was the only hospital in Edinburgh large enough 
to fulfil the requirements of the General Medical Council for 
registration as a medical practitioner, and the women were 
entitled to the privilege in virtue of their Matriculation 
tickets. They knew that some of the doctors were in their 
favour. Here are two of the "thumb-nail sketches " from 
the diary : 

" Saturday, Oct. 29th. Dr. Watson, most friendly. Only too 
happy to have us as pupils. Could not anticipate difficulty about 
Infirmary, etc. . . . 

Dr. Littlejohn foresaw the ruin of his son by women doctors, but 
' would drink the bitter cup to its dregs,' and vote for us." 



THE RIOT AT SURGEONS' HALL 287 

Their request, however, was met by a curt refusal. 

" Monday, October 3ist. Refused us dead. 

Gordon says, ' Try a written memorial ! ' Wood says he believes 
their charter compels them to admit all medical students. 
Qui vivra verra." 

It is obvious that they had approached the very stronghold 
of the enemy. Might is right and possession nine points of 
the law. The matter lay in the hands of a body of Managers 
who were obviously judging the case as represented to them 
by the medical party in power ; so now the duty fell upon 
the women of explaining their position as far as possible to 
those in whose hands the decision lay. 

" Friday, Nov. 4th. Just put down this day's work for a specimen ! 
Studying and canvassing at once, 

8.45. Started for Surgeons' Hall. 

9-10. Tutorial class, bones. 

lo-n. Surgery lecture. 

n-i. Dissecting. 

i2. Anatomy Lecture. 

2.10 Reached home and found a letter from Mr. Blyth (Manager) 
telling me to meet him at 2 p.m. ! ! Got there (after bolting beef-tea 
and wine) at 2.45. Talked at him for nearly an hour with good 
results, I believe. Got back home 3.40. Bolted some food, and 
went 

4 p.m. Demonstration exam. Didn't know the Acromion but got 
13/20 marks. 

Home to dinner. 

7 p.m. Started on round of calls. 

Home at 10 p.m. Not tired, <>h, dear no ! " 

" I don't like you to be a perpetual battering ram," writes Miss 
Du Pre, " for I suppose battering rams do wear out after a good 
many sieges ; but still I thoroughly like and admire your ' never 
say die ' feeling, and it is a fight with something worth fighting for 
to be got at the end, which is a great thing. 

If only I could be with you ! " 

One must read the following letters, whiqh were laid before 
the subsequent meetings of the Board, in order to realize how 
strong and sane the position of the women was : 

" November 5, 1870. 

MY LORD AND GENTLEMEN, As lecturers in the Edinburgh 
Medical School we beg most respectfully to approach your honourable 



288 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Board, on behalf of the eight female students of this school whom, 
we understand, you object to admit to the practice of the Royal 
Infirmary. On their behalf we beg to state : 

1. That they are regularly registered students of medicine in this 
school. 

2. That they are at present attending, along with the other 
students, our courses of anatomy, practical anatomy, demonstra- 
tions of anatomy, and systematic surgery, in the school at Surgeons' 
Hall. 

3. That as teachers of anatomy and surgery respectively, we find 
no difficulty in conducting our courses to such mixed classes com- 
posed of male and female students sitting together on the same 
benches ; and that the presence of those eight female students has 
not led us to alter or modify our course of instruction in any way. 

4. That the presence of the female students, so far from diminishing 
the numbers entering our classes, we find both the attendance and 
the actual numbers already enrolled are larger than in previous 
sessions. 

5. That in our experience in these mixed classes the demeanour 
of the students is more orderly and quiet, and their application to 
study more diligent and earnest, than during former sessions when 
male students alone were present. 

6. That, in our opinion, if practical bedside instruction in the 
examination and treatment of cases is withheld from the female 
pupils by the refusal to them of access as medical students to the 
practice of the Infirmary, we must regard the value of any systematic 
surgical course thus rendered devoid of daily practical illustration, 
as infinitely less than the same course attended by male pupils, who 
have the additional advantage of the hospital instruction under the 
same teacher. 

7. That the surgical instruction, being deprived of its practical 
aspect by the exclusion of the female pupils from the Infirmary, 
and therefore from the wards of their systematic surgical teacher, 
the knowledge of these female students may very reasonably be 
expected to suffer, not only in class-room examinations, but in their 
capacity to practise their profession in after life. 

8. That our experience of mixed classes leads us to the conviction 
that the attendance of the female students at the ordinary hospital 
visit, along with the male students, cannot certainly be more objection- 
able to the male students and the male patients than the piesence of 
the ward nurses, or to the female patients than the presence of the 
male students. 

9. That the class of society to which these eight female students 
belong, together with the reserve of manner, and the serious and 
reverent spirit in which they devote themselves to the study of 



THE RIOT AT SURGEONS' HALL 289 

medicine, make it impossible that any impropriety could arise out of 
their attendance upon the wards as regards either patients or male 
pupils. 

In conclusion, we trust that your honourable Board may see fit, 
on considering these statements, to resolve not to exclude these 
female students from the practice of, at all events, those physicians 
and surgeons who do not object to their presence at the ordinary 
visit along with the other students. 

Such an absolute exclusion of female pupils from the wards of the 
Royal Infirmary as such a decision of your honourable Board would 
determine, we could not but regard as an act of practical injustice 
to pupils who, having been admitted to the study of the medical 
profession, must have their further progress in their studies barred 
if hospital attendance is refused them. We are, my Lord and 
Gentlemen, your obedient servants, 

P. D. HANDYSIDE, 
PATRICK HERON WATSON." 

The second letter was a petition signed by the lady 
students, the famous " Sept em contra Edinam," as they 
were called, enclosing Paper A and Paper B. It may be 
well to give the names of the gallant seven once for all : 
Sophia Jex- Blake, Mary Edith Pechey (Mrs. Pechey Phipson), 
Isabel Thorne, Matilda Chaplin (Mrs. Ayrton), Helen Evans 
(Mrs. Russel), Mary Anderson (Mrs. Marshall), Emily Bovell 
(Mrs. Sturge). 

" November 5, 1870. 

Paper A. We, the undersigned physicians and surgeons of the 
Royal Infirmary desire to signify our willingness to allow female 
students of medicine to attend the practice of our wards, and to 
express our opinion that such attendance would in no way interfere 
with the full discharge of our duties towards our patients and other 

students. 

J. HUGHES BENNETT, 

GEORGE W. BALFOUR, 
PARTICK HERON WATSON." 

In paper B, two other medical men expressed their readiness, if 
suitable arrangements could be made, to teach the female students 
in the wards separately. 

" 15 Buccleuch Place, Nov. 13, 1870. 

MY LORDS AND GENTLEMEN, To prevent any possible miscon- 
ception, I beg leave, in the name of my fellow-students and myself, 
to state distinctly that, while urgently requesting your honourable 
Board to issue to us the ordinary students' tickets for the Infirmary 



290 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

(as they alone will ' qualify ' for graduation), we have, in the event 
of their being granted, no intention whatever of attending in the 
wards of those physicians and surgeons who object to our presence 
there, both as a matter of courtesy, and because we shall be already 
provided with sufficient means of instruction in attending the wards 
of those gentlemen who have expressed their perfect willingness to 
receive us. I beg, my Lord and Gentlemen, to subscribe myself 

your obedient servant, 

SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE. 

To the Honourable the Managers of the Royal Infirmary." 

Now the managers of the Infirmary were worthy folk as 
human nature goes, " several " of them, says S.J.-B., known 
to the women as " just and liberal-minded men," so it is not 
surprising that a majority were sufficiently moved by these 
arguments to desire that the request of the women be granted. 
On the ground of want of notice, however, the party in power 
got the matter deferred for a week. 

And now, clearly, the moment had come when every effort 
must be made to turn the women out altogether. If they 
carried their point at the next meeting, all might well be lost. 

It was at this juncture that, for the first time, some of the 
students began to make themselves unpleasant, " shutting 
doors in our faces, ostentatiously crowding into the seats we 
usually occupied, bursting into horse laughs and howls when 
we approached, as if a conspiracy had been formed to make 
our position as uncomfortable as might be." A students' 
petition against the admission of women to the Infirmary 
was handed about, and 500 students signed it. 

So the majority gained their point, and the party in power 
won an easy victory. 

" Follow it up," said someone. " Don't stop there. While 
you are at it, why not get rid of the women altogether ? " l 

It was not a surprising suggestion ; the presence of the 
women was making some people very uncomfortable ; but 
those who made the suggestion must have had a pretty good 
idea of how the students would proceed to carry it out, and 
what class of student would take the lead. 

1 This is a neutral and harmless paraphrase of the arguments some of 
the professors actually used in talking to the students, but one does not 
want to perpetuate the memory of words used in an angry conflict. 



THE RIOT AT SURGEONS' HALL 291 

For a day or two a feeble and cowardly effort was made 
to obstruct the entrance of women into the class-room, but 
S.J.-B., followed by her companions, simply failed to see 
the students who half-heartedly stood in her way, and walked 
through them. 

And then came about the " riot at Surgeons' Hall ", of which 
so much has since been said, and of which Charles Reade 
made picturesque use in his novel, The Woman Hater. 

In order to get a plain, unvarnished account of what took 
place, we cannot do better than quote the Courant l (the only 
Edinburgh morning paper which was unfavourable to the 
women) and the very brief record in S.J.-B. 's diary: 

" A disturbance of a very unbecoming nature took place yesterday 
afternoon in front of the Royal College of Surgeons, caused by the 
entrance of the lady ' medicals ' to the class-rooms. However 
ungallant it may appear, there is no doubt that many of the students 
look upon the admission of the ladies to the classes with no friendly 
eye ; but, unfortunately for their own credit, some have adopted 
a very undignified mode of signifying their displeasure. Shortly 
before four o'clock, the hour when the ladies arrive at the College, 
nearly two hundred students assembled in front of the gate leading 
to the building. As may be readily supposed, there was no lack of 
animation amongst the students ; and, with other popular melodies, 
' The Whale ' and ' John Brown's Body ' were sung with more spirit 
than good taste by at least a hundred voices. Such a noisy demon- 
stration speedily attracted a large crowd, and greatly interfered 
with the public traffic. Shortly before four o'clock those on the 
outlook descried the approach of the ladies, and immediately their 
appearance was greeted with a howl which might have made those 
who are supposed to be possessed of more temerity, quail, but it 
seemingly had no effect upon the ladies, for they most unconcernedly 
advanced towards the gate, the students opening up their ranks to 
allow them to pass. On reaching the gate it was closed in their 
face. Amidst the derisive laughter which followed this very question- 
able action, it must be said to their credit that a number of students 
cried ' shame.' In a short time the janitor succeeded in opening one 
leaf of the gate, and the ladies were admitted to the precincts, but 
not before some of them had been considerably jostled. 

The anatomical class-room to which they proceeded was crowded 
to the door, and, in consequence of the noise and interruption, Dr. 
Handyside found it utterly impossible to begin his demonstrations. 

x The Courant, Nov. 19, 1870. 



292 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

With much difficulty, he singled out those students belonging to 
his class, and, turning the others out of the room, he was about to 
proceed, when the pet sheep which grazes at the College was intro- 
duced to the room, a student jocularly remarking that it would 
be a good subject foi anatomical purposes. Poor ' Mailie ' was 
kept a prisoner, and the lecturer was allowed to proceed." 

" Let it remain," Dr. Handyside had said, " it has more 
sense than those who sent it here.'* 

" When the class broke up, a number of the students seemed 
determined to accompany the ladies home ; but the result was that 
several of them were apprehended by the police." 

The writer of the diary naturally saw things from a different 
point of view : 

" Friday, i8th. On getting in sight of S(urgeons') H(all), found 
mob of students and mixed multitude. 

Had to go down to P.O. and to Houlden's for Mrs. Evans [a most 
characteristic touch this ! in later life S. J.-B. often spoke of herself as 
' a sheep dog grown old.'] Then crossed road, . . . Mrs. T[horne] 
and I in front, then Mrs. K[ingsley] and others. 

Reaching pavement, way cleft for us by one or two, till gate reached 
and clashed in our face, by smokers inside. I placidly leant on it 
outside, mid cries of ' Shame,' ' Let them in,' etc., till Sanderson 
sprang forward and forced it open and in we went, Mrs. K. not, 
[she] remaining outside to hear ' very bad language, in which I 
didn't join.' (To S. M. M.'s great amusement.) 

Then we went in and had demonstration, some rushed in 
after us. 

Dr. Handyside went out and remonstrated, etc. Then sheep 
introduced. 

We passed rather good examination. Then at end H. asked if 
we would go out by back door. ' Oh, no,' I said. ' I am sure there 
are enough gentlemen here to prevent any harm to us.' And so 
we went, Hoggan and Sanderson pioneering, S. M. M. said she 
got hit, Wilson came up and took Mrs. K.'s arm (to our momentary 
fright), then we proceeded home, escorted by 

a. gallant cavaliers, 

b. police, 

c. general mob, 

d. all boys and girls of the town. 

" Monday, aist. Had warning of a ' more serious demonstration', 
so Wilson swore in the Irish Brigade. I asked Professor Wilson 



THE RIOT AT SURGEONS' HALL 293 

about it, and he requested Turner to keep his class till past five, 
they were let out at 4.45 ! 1 

However, it being rainy, there was almost no crowd. 

" Tuesday 22nd. . . . The Irish Brigade filed in to demonstration, 
and then escorted us home, some 30 or 40 in all. One woman 
hissed. W. as we came to crossing regretted it ' hadn't been 
swept,' etc. otherwise all quiet. The O'Halloran squired E. P., 
called her ' ma belle,' declared ' a loife wasn't much, but all the 
Irishmen would lay down theirs before we came to harm,' etc. 

And in the passage, the same mighty chisf shook my hand nearly 
off, vowing the pleasure it would give him and his to be any service 
to us, etc., etc. 

They gave us a great cheer when they got to the door. 

In the crowd B. heard, ' You know they'd never do it if they 
could get married.' ' Eh, you're wrong there, there aie some very 
good-looking ones among them.' ' Eh, now, see the students 
escorting them home, isn't it pretty ? ' 

And O'Halloran's troubles with his men. ' For God's sake, look 
after X. ! It's his first night out, and he'll be wanting to distinguish 
himself, he'll be hitting a policeman ! 

Altogether great ' demonstration in favour,' as Daily Review 
says. 

" Wednesday, 23rd. Same escort, though little necessary." 

The Wilson who swore in the Irish Brigade, has, of course, 
no connection with Professor Wilson. He was a student, 
and remained throughout life a loyal supporter of the 
cause. 2 His letter, written on the Sunday following the riot, 
is interesting : 

" DEAR Miss PECHEY, I wish to warn you, and, through you, 
your friends, that you are to be mobbed again on Monday. A 
regular conspiracy has been, I fear, set on foot for that purpose. 
I wish you to tell your friends that, although the projected demon- 
stration against you on Monday is intended to be much more serious 
than the one on Friday, and to frighten you all away, you need 
not in the least fear it. I have made what I hope to be efficient 
arrangements for your protection. I have passed the word round 



1 One hopes this fact was incorrectly reported ; it has never been con- 
tradicted. Possibly the Professor was annoyed at being asked to effect 
that by force which could safely be confided to the gentlemanly feeling 
of his students. 

2 In January, 1886, Mr. Robert Wilson had an article, 
Victrix," in the Fortnightly Review. 



294 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

amongst a lot of my friends not wholly inexperienced in the kind 
of work and you will be all right. 

I had a meeting with my friend, Micky O'Halloran who is 
leader of a formidable band, known in College as the ' Irish Brigade/ 
and he has consented to tell off a detachment of his set for duty on 
Monday. Micky was the formidable hero with the big red moustache 
who stood by us on Friday and whose presence with us rather dis- 
appointed the rioters who, I think, calculated on the aid both of 
himself and his set. I have taken care of that, and I believe the 
mere demonstration of the fact that you have men on your side able 
and willing to protect you, will deter the mob from even an attempt 
at a row. 

They are a cowardly lot, nearly all very young, and I don't think 
they have even one amongst them, who has had experience of the 
days when street-rioting was one of the accomplishments Edinburgh 
students were acquainted with, so they are not likely to be very 
troublesome. I believe they'll ' cave in ' if you only show a brave 
front. I have considerable influence also with the Highlanders in 
College, and expect to get a good deal of help from them, when I 
pass the word round tomorrow. 

May I venture to hint my belief that the real cause of the riots 
is the way some of the professors run you down in their lectures. 
They never lose a chance of stirring up hatred against you. For 
all I know they may have more knowledge of the riotous conspiracy 
than most people fancy. However, as I tell you, you and your 
friends need not fear, as far as Monday is concerned. You will be 

taken good care of. 

Yours faithfully, 

ROBERT WILSON. 

P.S. I would have sent this communication through Mrs. Kingsley, 
but as I have no chance of seeing her tomorrow, and as you are her 
friend, I send it to you." 

Mr. Henry Kingsley was at this time editor of the Daily 
Review, and almost as redoubtable a champion of the cause 
as Alexander Russel himself. Of Mrs. Henry Kingsley's 
loyalty it is impossible to speak in exaggerated terms. In 
the drawing-room, in the columns of a newspaper, and on 
the platform, she was equally ready to defend a fighting 
cause, and to correct the numerous misapprehensions that 
sprang up in connection with it. She attended the scientific 
classes without any idea of qualifying as a doctor, mainly for 
the purpose of identifying herself with the movement, and with 
people who had her wholehearted sympathy and admiration. 



295 

The news of the " Riot " went forth over the whole world, 
and the indignation roused by the matter of the Hope Scholar- 
ship was as nothing compared to that called forth by this 
escapade. " We trust the authorities of the medical school 
at Edinburgh will visit exemplary chastisement on the 
cowardly cads we have no milder name for them who 
could so conduct themselves towards the ladies who paid 
them the compliment of supposing they could act like gentle- 
men. Edinburgh has ceased to be so attractive as she was 
as a centre of education." This was a fair specimen of the 
indignant criticism called forth, and one is glad to record that 
none were more prompt to disown the delinquents than the 
more reputable of the students themselves. Some few papers, 
even of some standing, espoused the cause of the rioters ; 
and, in order to do this, it was perhaps almost necessary to 
represent the women and their doings in a way that disgusted 
all decent-minded men, " a brutality." said the Spectator, 
with reference to a given article, " of which a costermonger 
quarrelling with a fishwife would be ashamed." 1 

Some of us can imagine, too, the style of anonymous letter 
which the women received, and such letters were rather 
terrible to the women of those days. 

" 'Well ! we are about in the deepest waters now, that's one 
comfort,' says S. J.-B." 

" ' What do you think your constitution is made of that it will 
stand such overwork ? ' writes Miss Du Pre at this time. ' You will 
be a real martyr to the cause, if you don't take care. Yet I know 
you never needlessly use up one atom of strength, so I get a 
fearful idea of what the amount of work must be. I do wish 
you could just sit down to your lessons quietly as the men students 
can. 

The two newspaper articles made me nicely angry ! I think the 

is the lowest, but, when you get to such a depth it is not easy 

to measure degrees of lowness. I should think such attacks must 
make you feel as if all people on the other side were low and mean 
and wicked, don't they ? It's always so hard to believe that 
one's opponents may be good and honest and even sensible ; but 
when any of them write such letters as those, I think it must be 
well nigh impossible.' " 

1 Spectator, December 3, 1870. 



296 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

A new Act came into operation at this time, and all the 
Managers of the Royal Infirmary had to retire from the 
Board unless re-elected. Now was the time to get in members 
favourable to the admission of the women, if this could be 
done. One can imagine the canvassing that took place on 
both sides. 

Here are some characteristic " thumb-nails " from the 
diary : 

" Littlejohn at Police Court, very uncomfortable talk ; he so 
very candid and honest, but believing he ought to vote against us 
in Infirmary, because ' by hook or by crook ' they'd got up such 
a spirit among the students (L. was ' ashamed of his sex ') that he 
was afraid persistence would injure the School. 

M., ^1000 subscriber. Quiet, simple, not narrow or hard, 
only not interested previously. Said he ' must think of it now," 
though his prejudices were against women doctors. I showed him 
that that was only a detail, the question of justice lay beyond. 

L. R., Had nothing to do with it, etc., but thought it all im- 
proper. 

' T^he young men in female wards ? ' . . . ' Oh, it was their 
business ' 1 ! " 

At the Annual Meeting of Contributors on January 2nd, 
1871, the hall at the Council Chambers was crowded long 
before the advertised hour, though that hour was one o'clock. 
Proceedings began with a hot dispute among the civic 
magnates as to the propriety of adjourning to the High 
Church (St. Giles' Cathedral) which would seat a larger number 
of people, the representative of the Ecclesiastical Commis- 
sioners declaring that the Police Court would be a more 
suitable place, but allowing himself to be over-ruled on a 
point of law by Mr. Duncan M'Laren, M.P. for Edinburgh. 
By the time the move to the church had been effected, every- 
one was " rubbed up the wrong way," and there was a good 
deal of squabbling and noisy interruption before the main 
question at issue came on at all. 

The Lord Provost himself proposed the election of six men 
known to be in favour of the women students, and an amended 
list was proposed by one of the Infirmary Medical Staff. 
Warm language was used on both sides, and interruptions 



THE RIOT AT SURGEONS' HALL 297 

were frequent. This was the atmosphere in which S. J.-B. 
in the capacity of a subscriber asked leave to speak. 1 

She was, as has been said, one of the finest women speakers 
of her time ; but, even in her maturity, she was wont to suffer 
beforehand from an access of nervousness, of which, happily, 
no trace was obvious when the crucial moment arrived. 
What she must have suffered on this first occasion in Edin- 
burgh we can imagine. We know that she was over-worked 
and tired, and that her honest resentment had been raised 
to the highest pitch by the way in which some of those in 
authority were inciting the students to make trouble. It was 
deliberately said later by certain grave and responsible 
Edinburgh citizens that she had suffered " unexampled 
provocation." She wished the contributors to know the real 
truth of the situation, and she was resolved that the presence 
of her adversaries should not deter her from giving a plain, 
unvarnished account of what had taken place. She had 
realized the danger of failing from cowardice ; but, in her 
inexperience, she had not realized the danger of going to 
the other extreme : and that was what she did. Part of 
her speech might quite justly be described as a direct 
personal attack on one or two individuals. 

She spoke well, of course, but she owed her gift to Nature, 
in no way to Art : and -she was confronted by those double 
her age and more who had learned the full value of outward 
calmness and urbanity in debate. 

She had many friends in that church, and most of them 
must have suffered acutely : not because they did not'agree 
with her, but because they did. Some whose allegiance was 
of little value, or who had come with "an open mind," 
probably went over to the enemy. One is almost surprised 
to hear that it was only by the usual narrow majority 
94 to 88 in this instance that her cause was defeated. 

And yet, perhaps, one ought not to be surprised : for 
courage and honesty make their own appeal ; and the sore 
heart-burnings of generous adherents are a fire in which great 
things are kindled. 

1 Someone has pointed out that she was the first woman to speak in 
St. Giles' Church since Jenny Geddes threw her stool at the minister. 



298 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Of course hostile papers jeered. The Church Review went 
out of its way to take up the matter. As it began by severely 
criticising on literary grounds the speaker's use of the words 
" realize " and " emanate," one wonders that it ever came 
to the end of its indictment at all. 1 

We quote the part of the speech that was destined to lead 
to farther proceedings : 2 

" I want to point out that it was certain of these same men, who 
had (so to speak) pledged themselves from the first to defeat our 
hopes of education and render all our efforts abortive who, sitting 
in their places on the Infirmary Board, took advantage of the almost 
irresponsible power with which they were temporarily invested, to 
thwart and nullify our efforts. I believe that a majority of the 
managers desired to act justly in this matter ; but the presence of 
those bitter partisans, and the overwhelming influence of every 
kind brought to bear by them, prevailed to carry the day to refuse 
us not only admission on the ordinary terms, but also to refuse us 
every opportunity which could answer our purpose. I know of 
the noble protests made against this injury by some of the most 
respected and most learned members of the Board, but all their 
efforts were in vain, because strings were pulled and weapons brought 
into play of which they either did not know or could not expose 
the character. Till then, during a period of five weeks, the conduct 
of the students with whom we had been associated in Surgeons' 
Hall, in the most trying of all our studies, that of Practical Anatomy, 
had been quiet, respectful, and in every way inoffensive. They 
had evidently accepted our presence there, in earnest silent work, 
as a matter of course, and Dr. Handyside, in answer to a question 
of mine after the speeches at the meeting of the General Council, 
assured me that, in the course of some twenty sessions, he had never 
had a month of such quiet earnest work as since we entered his 
rooms. But at a certain meeting of the managers when our memorial 
was presented, a majority of those present were, I understand, in 
favour of immediately admitting us to the Infirmary. The minority 
alleged want of due notice of the question, and succeeded in obtaining 
an adjournment. 

What means were used in the interim I cannot say, or what 
influence was brought to bear ; but I do know that from that 
day the conduct of the students was utterly changed, that those 
who had hitherto been quiet and courteous became impertinent 



1 At a later date (1872) the Church Review became definitely friendly. 

2 Scotsman, January 3, 1871. 



THE RIOT AT SURGEONS' HALL 299 

and offensive ; and at last came the day of that disgraceful 
riot, when the college gates were shut in our faces and our little 
band bespattered with mud from head to foot. (" Shame.") It 
is true that other students who were too manly to dance as puppets 
on such ignoble strings, came indignantly to our rescue, that by 
them the gates were wrenched open and we protected in our return 
to our homes. But none the less it was evident that some new 
influence (wholly distinct from any intrinsic facts) had been at 
work. I will not say that the rioters were acting under orders, but 
neither can I disbelieve what I was tdld by indignant gentlemen 
in the medical class that this disgraceful scene would never have 
happened, nor would the petition have been got up at the same 
time, had it not been clearly understood that our opponents needed 
a weapon at the Infirmary Board. This I do know, that the riot 
was not wholly or mainly due to the students at Surgeons' Hall. 
I know that Dr. Christison's class assistant was one of the leading 
rioters (hisses and order) and the foul language he used could 
only be excused on the supposition I heard that he was intoxi- 
cated. I do not say that Dr. Christison knew of or sanctioned 
his presence, but I do say that I think he would not have been 
there, had he thought the doctor would have strongly objected 
to his presence. 

Dr. Christison- ' I must again appeal to you, my Lord. I 
think the language used regarding my assistant is language that no 
one is entitled to use at such an assembly as this (hear) where 
a gentleman is not here to defend himself, and to say whether it be 
true or not. I do not know whether it is true or not, but I do know 
my assistant is a thorough gentleman, otherwise he never would 
have been my assistant; and I appeal to you again, my Lord, 
whether language such as this is to b& allowed in the mouth of 
any person. I am perfectly sure there is not one gentleman in 
the whole assembly who would have used such language in regard 
to an absentee.' 

Miss J r ex-Blake ' If Dr. Christison prefers ' 

Dr. Christison ' I wish nothing but that this foul language shall 
be put an end to.' 

The Lord Provost ' I do not know what the foul language is. 
She merely said that in her opinion ' 

Dr. Christison ' In her opinion the gentleman was intoxicated.' 

Miss Jex-Blake ' I did not say he was intoxicated. I said I 
was told he was.' 

The Lord Provost ' Withdraw the word " intoxicated." ' 

Miss Jex-Blake ' I said it was the only excuse for his conduct. 
If Dr. Christison prefers that I should say he used the language 
when sober, I will withdraw the other supposition ' (laughter)." 



300 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

The Pall Mall, 1 chuckling sympathetically over this and 
another repartee, wisely concluded : 

" It is sincerely to be hoped that these unhappy little differences 
will soon come to an end. It cannot be to the advantage of anyone 
that lady students should be pelted with mud, or that they should 
use the power of retaliation displayed by their champion at the 
Royal Infirmary meeting on Monday." 

So the conflict deepened, and it would have been small 
wonder if all but the very brave had taken fright. 

But Edinburgh did contain some very brave people besides 
the women students. 

At the meeting on January 2nd, the Revd. Professor 
Charteris had been ruled out of order in some matter, but, 
at the earliest opportunity he returned to his point, and 
brought forward a motion, expressing the desire of the con- 
tributors that immediate arrangement should be made for 
the admission of the ladies to the Infirmary. This motion, 
seconded by Sir James Coxe, M.D., was lost by a small 
majority. 

Several things happened at that meeting, however, which 
were of more value to the cause than a formal victory would 
have been : 

A petition was read, signed by 956 women of Edinburgh, 
expressing " our great interest in the issues involved, and our 
earnest hope that full facilities for hospital study will be 
afforded by the Managers to all women who desire to enter 
the Medical Profession." 

More important still was the appearance of Mrs. Nichol, 
a well-known and most gracious elderly lady, endowed with 
the very fragrance of early Victorian womanhood, who came 
forward to ask a question, " not," she said, " in the interests 
of the lady students, but on behalf of those women who 
looked forward to see what kind of men were they who were 
to be the sole medical attendants of the next generation, if 
women doctors were not allowed." 

" If the students studying at present in the Infirmary cannot 
contemplate with equanimity the presence of ladies as fellow- 
students, how is it possible that they can possess either the scientific 

1 January 5, 1871. 



THE RIOT AT SURGEONS' HALL 301 

spirit, or the personal purity of mind, which alone could justify 
their presence in the female wards during the most delicate operations 
on, and examinations of, female patients." 

Yes, there were very brave people in Edinburgh besides 
the women students. 

This question was received with " laughter, hisses and 
applause," and no one ventured on a reply. No one except 
the rougher of the students who were assembled in the gallery 
on the look-out for a lark. They howled their appreciation 
of the question ; but it was only when S. J.-B. rose to speak 
and of course she had to pay the penalty of having rashly 
described them as " puppets " that they really let them- 
selves' go, shouting and yelling and pelting her with peas. 

" Well," said Professor Blackie, " ye can now say ye've 
fought with beasts at Ephesus." 

As a matter of fact she had not meant to speak again, but 
one of the professors had left her no alternative. In the 
course of a long speech he had asserted that, in consequence 
of mixed education, a college in America " had become so 
degraded that a woman who respected herself shrank from 
the contamination, and preferred to renounce the benefit of 
years of study rather than don the academic robe of one of 
its graduates." 

"Name the college," said S.J.-B., and other voices took 
up the cry of " Name ! " 

"He spoke on authority." (A voice " What authority ? ") " On 
the authority of Miss Blake herself, who . . . when asked why she 
had not pursued her studies instead of coming here, told him that 
the character of female medical students in America had so deterio- 
rated that she could not consent to stay." 

It cannot be easy to speak when one has awaited one's 
opportunity through a storm of hooting and pea-throwing ; 
but now indeed S. J.-B.'s fine courage and truthfulness shone 
out like the sun : 

" She wished merely to give an absolute, unqualified denial to 
Professor X.'s statement respecting her. She never made the state- 
ment he asserted she had made. During her whole visit to America 
she had never spent one whole session in any medical college what- 
ever. ... It was true she had studied two years in a woman's 



302 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

hospital, and every day's experience there had made her long more and 
more to see women in charge of their own sex (Great interruption 
and cries of ' Order ') and it was her experience in that hospital and 
her knowledge of the ladies connected with it [One can almost hear 
her inward cry, ' Oh, Lucy ! '] that made her devote her life to 
getting medical education for herself and also for other women. . . . 
Some of the friends she was proudest of were women doctors in 
America who had been educated there entirely, and in regard to 
whom she scarcely knew any equals and certainly no superiors." 

It was only in answer to repeated calls that Professor X. 
rose and said, " He was sure there was not an individual in 
that meeting who would not give him credit for having given 
what he believed to be the correct version of what occurred 
according to his recollection two years ago (Hisses and 
cheers) between Miss Jex- Blake and himself. If he had 
misconceived what had been said, or if his memory had failed 
him and he had stated what was not correct, he begged to 
apologise, as it was purely unintentional." (Applause and 
hisses.) 

A somewhat disappointing outcome this, of a long course 
of training in scientific exactness. 

It was now that the Professor of Moral Philosophy (Calder- 
wood) rose, profoundly stirred beneath the calm and judicial 
demeanour that seldom failed him, and pointed out that 
Professor X., while speaking to the amendment " that the 
question (of the women students) be left to the unbiassed 
decision of the Managers," had voluntarily given them a fair 
average specimen of an unbiassed opinion ! 

There are worse adversaries, in fact, than the honest beasts 
at Ephesus. 

A sore heart lay behind that jest of Professor Blackie's if 
one may judge by the following letter : 

" 24 Hill Street, 

Edinburgh. 

2oth January, 1871. 
MY DEAR Miss BLAKE, 

It is of no consequence to you, my poor sympathy with 
you all at present, and my utter horror of the conduct of your 
enemies ; but I wish to tell you how saddened my husband was by 
all he saw and heard at the Infirmary meeting last week. He 
sat at tea-time shading his eyes, and saying quietly from time to 



THE RIOT AT SURGEONS' HALL 303 

time, ' I am ashamed of my sex.' I never saw him so hurt before. 
I am sure the unmanly and indecent conduct of these poor ill-led 
young men, and the untruthfulness of their leaders will ultimately 
do you good. If men lose our respect and confidence, let them look 
to themselves. Your admirable letters must do great good. 

Pardon this intrusion, and believe me always your true friend, 

E. H. S. BLACKIE." 

No less welcome, we may be sure, was this : 

Huntly Lodge, 

Monday Evening. 
MY DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I am feeling inexpressibly for you and your friends this 
evening, and cannot resist the inclination that has come over me 
to tell you how deeply grateful everyone who has the welfare of the 
next generation at heart must feel to you who are so nobly fighting 
the battle which must soon be gained the results of which will 
bear precious fruit, I fully believe, long, long after even your heads 
are laid in the grave. 

You and the struggle you are carrying on remind me so forcibly 
of the contest which the band of women in America so nobly waged 
with the demon of Slavery. Your struggle will end much sooner, 
I trust, than did theirs, but, whilst sympathising with you, I cannot 
help feeling that the discussion is doing so much to educate people's 
minds, that it is better for the cause than if you had met with no 
opposition ; and in the end it may be better for you also, for by the 
time you are ready to practise, persons will have become accustomed 
to the idea and ready for you. 

Meanwhile tell us if there is aught we outsiders can do for you, 
and believe me, with love to dear Miss Pechey, 

Your affectionate, 

E. P. NICHOL. 

I am sure you will like to know that I don't feel a bit the worse 
for this day's work. 

You will excuse haste and some little weariness." 

Once more we are tempted to quote from a delightful 
budget : 

"13 Sussex Square, 
Brighton, 

Jan. igth. 1871. 
MY DEAR SOPHY, 

One line to wish you many happy returns of the 2ist, and 
most of them quieter than this birthday seems likely to be. 



3 04 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

I feel sure you will carry your point eventually, and should recom- 
mend you to stick to Edinburgh where you have already so very 
nearly won. 

It must be very harassing at times, and need a great deal of 
patience : for half the enemy seem wily and half seem roughs. 

The speech you last made, when the gallery ought to have been 
earlier cleared of its noisy occupants, seemed to me excellent : and 
I thought Maclaren showed great judgment in dealing with the 
adversary that same day. I should not be drawn much into news- 
paper correspondence, if I were you ; and I doubt if ... was worth 
powder and shot. But he may be, from personal or local reasons 
unknown to me. 

I feel no doubt whatever of the ultimate victory, but the delay 
is very fatiguing to the combatant . . . Take it easy, and don't 
let the enemy make you angry. They are sure to try. 
Your affectionate brother, 

T. W. J.-B." 

Very soon, too, a long letter arrived from women in London, 
" to the Lady Students in Edinburgh : 

" DEAI^ LADY STUDENTS, 

Let us entreat you to persevere " and so on. 

Here then were both parties firmly entrenched, with no 
prospect of an end to the combat ; but that fire in the hearts 
of generous adherents was burning steadily. The Lord 
Provost declined to accept his defeat. He proceeded to call 
a meeting of citizens, and in a very short time a committee 
was formed to share a burden that had become far too heavy 
for the shoulders of a handful of women. The list of sym- 
pathizers grew like a snowball, attracting many of the most 
honoured names in the country, till it became a rallying cry 
for weaker folk the wide world over. One can best describe 
the significance of all this in S.J.-B.'s own words, written 
some fifteen years later : 

" To the Committee thus inaugurated, we owe a debt of gratitude 
which I hardly know how to describe adequately. From that time 
forward to the close of our battle in Edinburgh, they stood by us 
with a fidelity and chivalrous readiness to help which was never 
marred by officiousness or needless interference. In a very short 
time they lifted from our shoulders the whole burden of pecuniary 
risk and responsibility, and, by personal and public help of every 
kind, made it possible for us to continue the struggle in which, with- 



THE RIOT AT SURGEONS' HALL 305 

out such aid, we should have been hopelessly outnumbered. Where 
so many gave us such invaluable assistance, it is almost invidious 
to single out any for special thanks ; and yet I cannot refrain from 
putting on record our extreme debt of gratitude to three men, of 
whom two have already passed away from among us, viz., the Lord 
Provost of Edinburgh (William Law), who gave us continually the 
support of his official countenance and assistance; Mr. Alexander 
Russel, Editor of the Scotsman, whose advocacy was literally beyond 
all price in those days, when our one hope and our great difficulty 
was to get the real truth laid fully and fearlessly before the public ; 
and our still invaluable friend, Professor Masson, whose champion- 
ship of the weak and oppressed was then, and always has been, 
worthy of the noblest days of chivalry." 



CHAPTER IX 
THE ACTION FOR LIBEL 

IT is not to be supposed, however, that the dark days were 
at an end. Far from it. The next act in the drama was 
an action for libel brought against S.J.-B. by Professor 
Christison's assistant. * 

Of course she took the lawyer's letter smiling, but it must 
have seemed well-nigh the last straw, for she was sorely over- 
strained by the public meetings and all the criticism they 
called forth ; and her entire Christmas holiday had been 
spent in calling on Infirmary managers. These were naturally 
of all sorts, from the big bustling prosperous brewer to the 
refined gentlewoman of equally restricted outlook ; and the 
strain of adaptation to such divers personalities must have 
been very great. 

Even on Christmas Day 1 (a Sunday !) she had been at the 
Scotsman office, arranging with the Editor for the alteration 
and publication of various entries on the following day. 
Things were not made easier by the fact that a heavy fall of 
snow had been followed by alternating spells of slush and 
ice. All the other students had gone out of town, and in 
many ways it would have been better all round if she had 
gone too. But her supporters simply could not get on without 
her. She might on occasion be difficult and trying, expecting 
more of people than they were prepared to give ; but no one 
else could even compare with her in knowledge of all the 
facts and arguments that might at any moment be called for 

1 " God bless the Massons," writes Mrs. Jex-Blake, " for cheering my 
darling on Christmas Day." 



THE ACTION FOR LIBEL 307 

by the emergencies of a big public controversy. There was 
no need for professors, editors and others to charge their 
memories with endless minutiae when S.J.-B. was at hand, 
clear and concise, as a book of handy reference. 

Life was too full this year for the accustomed backward 
survey at midnight on December 3 1st ; there was no quotation 
of " May the New Year cherish " This is the entry : 

" Less utterly hopeless tonight, only so tired. E. P. just back, 
bless her ! " 

Well, in any case, here was the lawyer's letter, and it just 
had to be faced. There is no reference to it in the diary till 
long after indeed, except as a register of facts that have 
now lost all interest, the diary becomes almost non-existent 
but, in a day or two, the news was all over the country. 
It was more than could be expected of human nature that 
some of the women students should not have felt aggrieved 
that the situation had been complicated by their leader's 
impulsiveness. On the whole they were loyal, especially the 
three first recruits, Mrs. Thorne, Mrs. Evans, and " E. P., 
bless her ! " 

But, as ever, faithful friends gathered round, and> if the 
postman's visit had become a thing to be dreaded, he also 
brought much good cheer. Here is a letter from the wife 
of a leading minister of religion : 

" DEAR MRS. EVANS, 

The opposition have ' crowned the edifice ' by bringing that 
action of Damages against Miss J ex-Blake, how unspeakably low 
and unmanly it all is. I never knew before that saying a man 
was drunk was actionable ; if it is we must be very careful how we 
speak even of our nearest and dearest. I think a subscription ought 
to be set on foot at once to pay Miss J ex-Blake's expenses, and I 
shall be delighted to contribute my mite." 

One can only quote one or two out of many : 

" The Athenaeum, 

Jan. 23, 1871. 
MY DEAR SOPHY, 

I will gladly pay half expenses of your action for libel brought 
by Dr. Christison's assistant. 

I think it vital that you should have the best legal assistance, 
and win. Be careful, and don't let them ' draw ' you into indis- 



308 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

cretions that are most forgiveable morally, but damaging to the 
cause practically. 

I don't the least want to lecture you or assume the Mentor. I 
only want you to win all along the line. 

Your aff. brother, 

T. W. J.-B." 

The next is written in a clear and clerkly hand : 

" Miss Jex-Blake, Ph.D. 

Edinburgh. Kinbuck, 7 February, 1871. 

MADAM, 

We the undersigned desire to express our most sincere 
sympathy with your cause and earnest hopes for your success. 

I am, 

Your obedient Servants, " 

Follows a list of four names, apparently of young business 
men. One wonders which of them conceived the bold idea 
of the " Ph.D." How gladly they would have made it 
" M.D." if they could ! 

The letter was addressed to " Miss Jex-Blake, Royal 
Infirmary, Edinburgh," and is grimly endorsed, " Not for 
Royal Infirmary." 

One more letter we are tempted to quote with very mingled 
feelings : 

"19 Inverleith Row, 
Edinburgh. 

27 January 1871. 
MY DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I see that Mr. C. has raised an action against you. If you 
have not already fixed on a counsel to defend you, will you allow 
me to propose that you should employ my son-in-law, Mr. Trayner. 
I propose this, not for his advantage but your own, as I am quite 
sure from the great interest he would take in your case, and also 
that I know you would find in him, not only an able advocate, but 
a kind friend, that you would have no cause to regret the choice. 
Believe me, dear Miss Jex-Blake, 

Very truly yours, 

MARGARET WYLD." 

From another source one learns that Mr. Trayner [now 
Lord Trayner], if employed, would have done the work 
without fee, from sheer sympathy with the cause. 

The pity of it ! One cannot help feeling how differently 



THE ACTION FOR LIBEL 309 

things might have gone, if S. J.-B. had availed herself of this 
suggestion. " The best legal advice " is an expression 
capable of varied interpretation, and of course S.J.-B. 
young and inexperienced was guided by her solicitors. It 
is possible, too, of course, that the advice was good. 

Young and inexperienced she was in matters of this kind, 
full of hope that she, who had nothing to hide and everything 
to gain from full publicity, would see herself substantially 
justified in an open court of law. 

On the whole, public opinion was against her. All sorts 
of stories were rife, many of them entirely false, some with 
just that grain of truth that makes a lie so deadly. When 
the Winter Session came to an end in March, the President of 
the College of Physicians and the President of the College of 
Surgeons both announced that they would not preside at 
the prize-giving if lady students were to be present and to 
receive their prizes on this occasion. 

On the other hand S.J.-B. was, of course, much sought 
after by outsiders who admired her talent and courage. In 
April she was urged by the leading women suffragists of the 
day to speak at a Suffrage meeting in London, and, after 
consulting Professor Masson and other friends in Edin- 
burgh as to the probable effect on her own " Cause," she 
agreed. 

" Darling," writes her sorely- tried Mother, " speaking at a public 
meeting will be anything but restful. You positively require rest 
to go on with the real work and worrying work before you. May 
you be guided aright." 

The speech took place, however, and was a great success. 
Her " pathetic voice " and clear exposition of the argument 
deduced from her own trying experience are referred to 
repeatedly. This was her first public association with a 
cause of which, throughout life, she was one of the sanest 
and most practical exponents. 

It was in the course of this visit to London, too, that she 
made the acquaintance of Mr. (afterwards Sir James) Stansfeld, 
whose influence was to prove so priceless in the farther develop- 
ment of the movement. 

Meanwhile the law ran its slow and expensive course. 



310 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

" Monday, May 22nd. . . . White Millar wants to know if I will 
say C. ' wasn't drunk ' if he on his side allows that I ' had been 
told so.' 

I don't want to be too obstinately pugnacious, but I hate the idea 
of giving a handle to people to say I ' ate my words '. Calderwood 
wisely says it should be a sine qua non that the public should know 
the overture came from them, and I should like also to make C. 
own he was ' Foremost among the rioters '. 

" Tuesday May 23rd. I have just accepted Lord Advocate at 
fee of ^200, so now it shall go on unless they pay costs. . . . 

" May 26th, Friday 10 p.m. ' Where the wicked cease from 
troubling and the weary are at rest.' 

How inclined one feels to turn one's face to the wall and say 
with Elijah, ' Lord, take away my life, I am not better than my 
fathers '. 

The obstinate lying of these students in preference to giving any 
information possibly useful to us ; the constant hisses and rudeness 
even in the streets, J's insolent civility, especially to Miss B., 
those two scamps shouting ' Whore ' after S. M. M., as she crossed 
the George Square Gardens yesterday evening, etc. 

Oh, dear, I hope Tuesday at least will end one worry satisfactorily. 
I think it must clear me morally at any rate ! and yet I have that 
nervous quiver through me as when one wakes with nightmare. 
I wonder if any such hysterical wretch ever had to do such work 
as mine ! 

And yet what good friends and helpers ! Gilbert's ever ready 
kindness, Wilson's hearty interest, ' Well, if you lose on Tuesday, 
even you will not be more vexed than I shall '." 

The case came on for trial on May 3ist. On the morning 
of the day, S.J.-B. received the following letter from her 
Mother : 

" God's protection and blessing be with you, my own precious 
child. I. will not harass and plague you by writing further than to 
assure you I am in spirit present with you. 

Your loving, 

M. E. J.-B. 

I am quite well, and picturing how calm and collected you are, 
and how many many are thinking of you with friendly thoughts." 

The case lasted two days. It was reported verbally in 
the Scotsman and other daily papers. " Throughout the day 
the Court-room was densely crowded, many ladies being 



THE ACTION FOR LIBEL 311 

among the audience." For many, of course, this was the 
first opportunity of seeing these amazing women, and for 
some time the provincial and weekly papers ran riot in im- 
pressions of this kind : 

" Mrs. Thorne succeeded as witness, and the assembled public 
thought it very hard that she should be neither odd nor eccentric. 
Why was she married ? She was a medical student and ought not 
to be married. Sedate, quiet and ladylike-looking, and dressed in 
an unobtrusive fashion, and yet fairly within the pale of orthodoxy, 
Mrs. Thorne confused the minds of many." 

" Miss Pechey was the sole remaining witness, and created a good 
deal of fresh interest. A tall figure and a classically shaped head 
with dark hair, are generally supposed to be the attributes of young 
ladies who keep to their ' sphere.' That female medical students 
should dare to be good-looking, dare to be married, dare to be 
dressed in good taste, is, of course, an unpardonable crime." 

" Great interest of course was manifested in [Miss Jex-Blake's] 
appearance in the witness box. Plainly dressed in black, with white 
round her neck and wrists, she presented the appearance of a tall 
and well formed, handsome and determined woman, with dark hair 
and eyes. She was perfectly cool and collected, and her manner 
was a great contrast to the nervousness of Dr. Christison and the 
' smartness ' of Dr. Bell." 

So much for the " hysterical wretch " ! 

In truth the women had learned their lesson. There was 
no bitter, impulsive speaking now. They said what they 
meant to say, and they said it well and with restraint. " These 
customers are composed ! " a man in the back of the Court 
was heard to exclaim. 

As has been said, S.J.-B. had everything to gain from 
publicity, from a full exposure of the facts. The worst she 
had done had been to state her case in public without fear 
of persons, without much tact and discretion, though with 
no exaggeration of the actual truth. The public had already 
passed judgment on her. She was now on her defence, 
desirous only of asking her opponents, under cross-examina- 
tion, to deny the truth of what she had said. 

But the law of libel is an intricate and parlous thing. S. J.-B. 
had been told by several people of standing including her 
teacher and his assistant that Professor Christison's assistant 



312 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

had been a ringleader in the riot ; but she did not know of 
her own knowledge that he had been so. 

" I wished," she says, " to plead the substantial truth of my 
statement ; but, being, of course, ignoiant of Scotch law, I was 
overruled by my Counsel, among whom was the Lord Advocate of 
Scotland (Young), on the ground that I could not personally prove 
the truth of what I had said, as indeed I did not know the young 
man by sight, and it would be held an aggravation of the injury to 
plead ' Veritas ' in a matter which was, after all, only one of hearsay. 
I was assured that, if the case came to trial, abundant opportunity 
would be given to prove the young man's real conduct in the 
matter." 

This opportunity, however, was relentlessly withheld. 

The case for the defence was one to rejoice the heart of a 
brilliant counsel, being full of technical opportunity, and 
to a brilliant counsel it fell. So entirely did Mr. Shand 
(afterwards Lord Shand) rely on his own bow and spear to 
win the day, and it must be admitted that there was nothing 
else to rely on that he dared to risk the conclusions which 
must inevitably be drawn from his omission to call the 
pursuer as a witness on his own side ; he dared to provoke 
a laugh by saying that Mr. C. " was not so fond of public 
appearances as the defendant." He laid down in his opening 
statement the law that must govern the case, and with dogged 
tenacity, he brought the Judge and everyone else in Court 
to heel. Lord Mure, as it chanced, was easily led. The 
choice of a Judge in Scotland lies with the pursuer, and in 
any case it might not have been easy to find one in those 
days who had a prejudice in favour of women doctors. 

One is glad to know that the protagonist appeared " cool 
and collected " to the indifferent observer, but she must have 
been on the rack much of the time, for the " substantial 
truth and right " for which she longed, got no chance at all, 
or rather they saved their lives only by losing them, so to 
speak ; and that is one of time's revenges that youth cannot 
foresee. 

The full report of the case appeared in the Scotsman of 
May 3ist and June 1st. The following extracts are taken 
mainly from the Edinburgh Evening Courant, because they 



THE ACTION FOR LIBEL 313 

are slightly abbreviated, and because they appeared in a 
paper unfriendly to the cause of the women. 

" There could be no doubt," said the advocate for the pursuer, 
" that, however injurious the arguments she used might be, if they 
were justified by facts, it was perfectly open to Miss Jex-Blake to 
maintain that her statements were true, and to take what is called 
an ' issue in justification,' for the purpose of establishing upon her 
own issue, as counter to the present one, what she said. But she 
had not chosen to do that : it was not pretended that the state- 
ments were true ; and therefore the only question the jury had to 
try was, practically, whether those statements were to the pursuer's 
loss, injury, and damage. 1 " 

This argument, fair enough as coming from an advocate, 
represents to all intents and purposes, the attitude adopted 
by the Judge. The case positively bristled with arguments, 
but the humblest appearance of a really relevant fact brought 
Mr. Shand to his feet with a taboo. 

" Thomas Sanderson deponed in answer to Mr. M'Laren I am 
a student of medicine and last winter I attended Dr. Laycock's 
class. On the i8th November I was at the gate leading to Surgeons' 
Hall. There was a large crowd of students and a larger crowd of 
other people at the gate. The students were both inside and out- 
side the gate. The majority were University students. I assisted 
the ladies to pass through the College gate. I was pulled about a 
little by the students. The students were hooting, and oaths and 
offensive expressions were used. 

Among the students inside the gate did you recognize Mr. C. ? 

Mr. Shand (to witness) Don't answer that question. 

Lord Mure sustained the objection. 

Mr. M'Laren Did you see Mr. C. at anytime on the iSthNovember? 

Witness Yes. 

Where did you see him ? At the Surgeons' Hall. 

At what time of the day did you see him ? A few minutes after 
four o'clock. 

How was Mr. C. conducting himself ? 

Lord Mure disallowed the question. 

E. C. C., examined by the Lord Advocate, deponed I am the 
puisuer in this action. I was twenty-one years of age last August. 

You remember the riot at Surgeons' Hall on the i8th of November ? 
I do. 

Where were you ? 

1 Scotsman, May 31, 1871. 



314 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Mr. Shand objected to this question. His Lordship had already 
ruled that no evidence could be led as to whether the witness took 
part in these proceedings ; and it seemed as if the Lord Advocate 
was attempting to evade his Lordship's decision. 

Lord Mure said this was a general question and he allowed it to 
be put to the witness. 

The Lord Advocate Where were you at the time ? Witness 
At what time ? 

At the time of the riot ? I was at the College of Surgeons during 
part of the time. 

When did you go there ? Three o'clock. 

When did the riot begin ? Shortly after four. 

What were you doing between three and four ? I was in the 
class for practising physic. 

When did it come out ? A few minutes before four. 

Was there a mob of students at the gate ? 

Mr. Shand Your lordship will understand that I am objecting 
to all these questions. 

The Lord Advocate Were you present during the whole of the 
riot? 

Mr. Shand I object to that question. 

Lord Mure sustained the objection." 

In addressing the jury, Mr. Shand said, 

" A slander had been committed and was unrepented, and only 
"by a verdict from the jury could the calumny be wiped off. A 
nominal sum, however, would be an injury instead of an assistance. 
Excessive damages * he did not ask, but only such a reasonable 
sum as would mark their sense of the injury inflicted on the pursuer 
by the statements made in his absence." 

The Lord Advocate's summing up was humorous in the 
extreme, and called forth peals of laughter at the pursuer's 
expense ; indeed in the end he almost went so far as to produce 
a counter-wave of sympathy for the victim of his brilliant 
raillery. But, indeed, nothing could be made of the case as 
it stood. 

In the final summing-up, Lord Mure said : 

" He had not allowed any evidence to prove that the pursuer 
liad been a leader in the riot, because, according to his view of the 
authorities on the subject, it was incompetent to allow such evidence 



1 The amount claimed ^1000 was only specified when the case came 
into Court, having been inadvertently omitted from the issue. 



THE ACTION FOR LIBEL 31 5 

in the absence of an issue of justification. The jury had heard the 
evidence of Dr. Christison and others as to the injury which a man's 
character was calculated to sustain from such a statement as had 
been made use of by the defender ; and it was for the jury to judge 
whether that charge was one which was likely, without retractation 
or apology, to injure the pursuer's chaiacter. 

The jury retired at five o'clock, and at half -past six they returned 
to Court, and gave a unanimous verdict in favour of the pursuer, 
assessing the damages at a farthing." x 

On the following day a leading article in the Glasgow Herald 
made the following comment ; 

" Miss Blake has not pled or proved the substantial truth of her 
accusations. She has preferred to challenge Mr. C. to prove their 
falsehood. We are altogether unable to understand why he should 
not have accepted the challenge, and why he omitted to deny the 
charges levelled against him. We cannot see how he could have 
expected a jury to give him substantial damages for his injured 
reputation when he refused to allow any enquiry into the circum- 
stances in which he stood. The witnesses who were present on the 
occasion of the riot were not allowed to say whether they saw Mr. 
C. present at the riot, whether he took part in it, or what he said 
or did on the occasion if he was present. Miss J ex-Blake is accord- 
ingly very properly fined one farthing for her rash and libellous 
statements, and the public is left to wonder for what earthly reason 
Mr. C. brought his action. It has only one compensation for the 
loss of time involved in reading the evidence in a trial which has 
established nothing. Miss J ex-Blake has completely vindicated the 
title of her sex to aspire to the highest honours not merely in medicine 
but in law. She has shown herself a perfect mistress of the art of 
self defence. In no cricket field this season have there been so 
many dangerous balls admirably stopped, and so many badly bowled 
ones dexterously played. If the witness and the counsel could have 
interchanged positions, the change might possibly have had consider- 
able effect upon the fortunes of Mr. C." ! 

But the end was not yet. It was still possible for the 
Bench to make S. J.-B. responsible for the entire costs of 
the case, and in due time she was called upon to pay in 
addition to the farthing damages a bill of 915 us. id. 

1 Edinburgh Evening Courant, June i, 1871. 

2 " Of course, as you know, I daresay," writes Professor Jack to S. J.-B. 
about this time, " all the articles that appear in the Herald are mine,, 
and especially the good ones." 



316 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Let it be recorded at once that her brother promptly 
redeemed his promise, and sent a cheque for half the 
amount. 

As soon as the decision ot the Court was made known, 
one of the jurymen expressed his feelings in a letter to the 
Scotsman : 

" Edinburgh, July 1871. 

SIR, As one of the jurymen before whom this case was tried,' I 
am extremely disappointed to observe from the papers that the 
Court have found the pursuer entitled to his expenses. 

I have been anxiously looking forward to the determination of 
the case, in the hope that the verdict of the jury would be so applied 
as to receive the effect which they intended by it. 

The jury were of the opinion that the pursuer should have sub- 
mitted some evidence to them of his non-participation in the dis- 
graceful riot, of which Miss Jex-Blake had so much reason to complain, 
to have entitled him to a verdict ; and they would have made some 
representation to the presiding Judge on the subject had it been 
possible to do so. 

After retiring, the first thing done was to appoint a foreman. 
This gentleman turned out to be in favour of a verdict for the 
defender. With the view of ascertaining the mind of the rest of the 
jury, he asked us individually to write down on pieces of paper 
whether we were for 'libel' or 'no libel'. The result was an equal 
division six for finding that there was a libel, and six for no libel. 
This was done a second time with the same result. In this pre- 
dicament, and after considerable discussion as to the amount of 
damages, in the course of which I don't think a larger sum than one 
shilling was even mentioned, even by those who thought there had 
been a libel, it was proposed to ask the Court whether the foreman 
had a casting-vote. This was done, and the Clerk came back and 
told us he had not. We then asked the Clerk whether we were 
entitled to find for the pursuer \\ithout giving any damages, and he 
told us we were not. Shortly after, we again sent for the Clerk, and 
enquired whether a farthing of damages would carry expenses 
against the defender. He stood a while, and said there was some 
new Act which provided that a farthing of damages would not carry 
expenses. 

He went out to consult the Judge ; but, having got this informa- 
tion from him, we agreed upon our verdict, and rung the bell for 
the macer at once. I had no doubt of the soundness of the Clerk's 
opinion, and in that belief I concurred in the verdict finding the 
pursuer entitled to one farthing of damages. I certainly would not 
have done so, had I for a moment anticipated the result which has 



THE ACTION FOR LIBEL 317 

happened. I think the case a very hard one for the defendei, more 
especially when, but for the opinion given by the Clerk, the verdict 
might have been in her favour. I think it is due to her that the 
public should be informed of the circumstances under which the 
verdict was given, ior it seems a very illogical result to affirm that 
the pursuer had suffered no damage by the alleged slander, or, at 
least damage of only one farthing, and at the same time to compel 
the defender to pay a large sum for expenses, especially when the 
origin of the whole matter was a riot in which the ladies were so 

badly used. I am, etc. 

A JURYMAN. 

This letter was followed by one from a lawyer : 

" Edinburgh, July 12, 1871. 

SIR, I am not surprised at the letter in your publication of 
lo-day, of a ' A Juryman ' in the above case. The Clerk of Court 
was in substance correct in his statement to the jury that by a recent 
Act of Parliament the pursuer in an action of damages is not entitled 
to expenses if the verdict is for less than 5, but he was wrong in 
not at the same time informing them of the discretion still left to 
the Court. . . . 

But the thing that strikes me most forcibly in the juryman's 
statement is how came it that a Clerk of Court was allowed to speak 
to the jury at all on such a matter. The public are indebted to the 
juryman for making this known, because it at once explains what 
was intended by the verdict. I do not think in the ciicumstances 
the verdict is worth anything, and I would strongly advise Miss 
J ex-Blake to appeal the case, and have the verdict set aside on the 
ground either of the Clerk's interference, or that the decision of the 
Judges is wrong. Certainly the decision on the matter of expenses 
is very unsatisfactory to the legal profession, especially as it was 
given without the usual statement of the grounds of judgment. 

I am, etc., 

A LAWYER." 

It remained for Miss Pechey to give her views on the 
practical outcome of the case. Poor little Hope Scholar ! 
She had travelled far since the days when she had refused to 
" appeal " because she was better employed in listening to the 
nightingales. 

" Edinburgh, July i3th. 

SIR, I see that a juryman has written to you to say how very 
ill the recent decision as to the costs agrees with the intentions of the 
jury, and a lawyer has made clear how extraordinary it is in point 



3i8 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

of law. Will you allow me to say a few words, from personal ex- 
perience, on the practical results ? 

The medical students of Edinburgh have received a hint by which 
some of them seem well inclined to profit. They have been told 
pretty plainly that it is possible that there should be a riot got up 
for the express purpose of insulting women, for one of the very 
women insulted to be accused of libel when she complains of such 
conduct, and then for the insulters to escape scot-free, and the com- 
plainer to be mulcted in expenses. In fact the moral seems to be 
that, unless a woman is willing to be saddled with costs to the amount 
of several hundred pounds, she had better resolve to submit to 
every kind of insult, without even allowing herself to mention the 
facts. 

I say that some of the students appear to have taken the hint 
so given ; for to this I must think is due the treatment received 
by myself and some of my friends if we happen to meet students 
on our way home in the evening. It will possibly strike some people 
as sufficiently extraordinary that a knot of young men should find 
pleasure in following a woman through the streets, and should take 
advantage of her being alone to shout after her all the foulest epithets 
in their voluminous vocabulary of abuse ; yet such is the case. 
I am quite aware that it would be useless to represent to those 
students the injury they do to the University and to the medical 
profession in the eyes of the public, because neither of these con- 
siderations would weigh with them for a moment ; but it may make 
some impression on them to be told that the effect of th.ir conduct 
is really such as they would least desire. Dr. Christison is reported 
to have said during his examination in Court, that he considered 
the riot of November to be ' a great misfortune,' and from his point 
of view he was undoubtedly right. If the wish of these students is 
to bar our progress, and frighten us from the prosecution of the 
work we have taken in hand, I venture to say never was a greater 
mistake made. Each fresh insult is an additional incentive to finish 
the work begun. I began the study of medicine merely from 
personal motives ; now I am also impelled by the desire to remove 
women from the care of such young ruffians. I am quite aware 
that respectable students will say, and say truly, that these are 
the dregs of the profession, and that they will never take a high 
place as respectable practitioners. Such is doubtless the case ; 
but what then ? Simply that, instead of having the medical charge 
of ladies with rich husbands and fathers, to whom, from self-interest, 
they would be respectful, they will have the treatment of unpro- 
tected servants and shop-girls. I should be very sorry to see any 
poor girl under the care (!) of such men as those, for instance, who 
the other night followed me through the stieet, using medical terms 



THE ACTION FOR LIBEL 319 

to make the disgusting purport of their language more intelligible 
to me. When a man can put his scientific knowledge to such de- 
graded use, it seems to me he cannot sink much lower. 

How far the recent decisions are calculated to arrest or discourage 
such conduct, I leave the public to judge. I am, etc. 

MARY EDITH PECHEY." 

One is glad to note that the Lancet now took fire : 

" Common candour must compel any unprejudiced person to 
admit that the fight has been pursued by the orthodox party per 
fas et nefas, and that the ill-advised conduct of grave and learned 
seniors in the profession has offered only too plausible an excuse 
to the heated blood of younger partisans to indulge in coarse 
excesses." 

It would be wrong to make too much of this ebullition of 
wickedness from the hearts of " ill-led " boys ; but we must 
not forget that the women were scarcely more than girls, 
unable to view these things as calmly as we view them now ; 
and all these experiences went to make them the thing they 
became. 

For the iron entered into their souls. 

Thirty years later one of their number a married woman 
and a physician of standing was heard to say that on her 
occasional visits to Edinburgh, she would make a detour of 
miles rather than pass the gates of Surgeons' Hall. 

"Would you really!" said S.J.-B. 



CHAPTER X 
SOME FRIENDSHIPS AND HOLIDAYS 

OF course S. J.-B. was not allowed to pay one penny of her 
expenses. The amount was subscribed, and more than 
subscribed, by sympathizers all over the United Kingdom 
in the course of a few weeks ; and her brother's cheque was 
duly returned. It would almost seem as if nothing had done 
so much to excite public interest and fellow-feeling as that 
unfortunate speech and the lawsuit to which it led. The 
very names of those who undertook to receive subscrip- 
tions gave a striking indication of the challenge of popular 
sympathy. 1 

There was no lack of criticism and condemnation, of course ; 
the move and countermove went on ; but hundreds of letters 
poured in, bearing' witness, not only to the width, but to the 
depth, of the feeling called forth. Miss Frances. Power 
Cobbe's impulsive beginning, " I want words to express my 
indignation, " was typical of many. Harriet Martineau, 
too, was a subscriber and a cordial sympathizer. 2 

A number of subscriptions were returned after the full 
amount was raised, and many people expressed their dis- 

1 Mrs. Hill Burton, Rev. Professor Calderwood, Treasurer Colston, 
J. R. Findlay, Esq., David Greig, Esq., Mrs. Hope of Drylaw, Miss Agfies 
M'Laren, Mrs. Nichol, Admiral Sir W. Ramsay, K.C.B., Miss L. Stevenson, 
and R. S. Wyld, Esq. 

* " If you, as the honoured and trusted representative of us working 
women, are insulted for us all, the grosser the insult, the more secure you 
must be of sympathy and gratitude from increasing multitudes of indi- 
viduals, and of the adoption of our cause as a practical aim by the best 
part of society in our day." 



SOME FRIENDSHIPS AND HOLIDAYS 321 

appointment at hearing of the fund only through the announce- 
ment that it was closed. " I wish it would open again," 
wrote the Revd. Professor Charteris, " even if it were only 
a little chink." 

Here are two very different letters that one is glad to put 
on record : 

" Inverness, Aug. 3/71. 
DEAR Miss STEVENSON, x 

Assuredly no man could calmly read Miss J ex-Blake's case, 
out of or in Court. And, could I do so publicly, I would cast from 
me with loathing all my once valued connexions with the Edinr. 
Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons ; to show my utter disgust at 
(with a few honourable exceptions) their unmanly brutal conduct 
towards Miss Blake and her friends. 

On the gth (D.V.) I shall be in Edinburgh, when I shall call for 
or write to you. On that day, I hope to get some help from absent 
friends to add to the mite of 

Yours faithfully, 

J. MACKENZIE, M.D." 

"33 Richmond Place, 
Edinburgh, 24th Aug. 1871. 
MADAM, 

I beg to enclose a P.O.O. for eight shillings. This small sum 
is subscribed by a few working men in aid of the fund for defraying 
the Law expences so unjustly thrust upon Miss Jex-Blake for simply 
speaking the truth in her own defence in a Straightforward Manner. 
They deeply sympathise with this lady in the noble strugle she is 
making for Womens right to a liberal education and remunerative 
employment. May she be of good cheer, of good courage, and 
continue steadfast unto the end. 

I am, Madam, 

Your obedient Servant, 

JAMES GRAY. 

P.S. If this subscription be advertised please put it, A few 
working men 8s. It is payable at the Nicholson Street Post 
Office. 

Miss A. M'Laren." 



1 Miss Louisa Stevenson and Mrs. Henry KingsJey had kindly under- 
taken to be Hon. Treasurers of the fund. 



322 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

There was almost always an element of comic relief, too, 
about these tragic and moving situations. The following 
letter was one of those which provided it in this case : 

" 58 Altom Street, 
Miss JEX-BLAKE, Blackburn, 15 Aug./yi. 

DEAR MADAM, 

Although a complete stranger to you I have long been familiar 
with your name, and also with your efforts to open the Edinburgh 
University to Ladies. I understand that you have been in America, 
you will therefore be familiar with many of the Colleges and Univer- 
sities there. My wife who is in full practice here has studied Medicine 
in the Hygeio-Therapeutic Medical College and has obtained her 
M.D. Degree from the same College. As I am able to influence the 
Degree of M.D. to either Ladies or Gentlemen who are able to satisfy 
me as to their fitness to practise Medicine, I thought I would com- 
municate with you, as probably an American degree would answer 
your purpose until it is possible to procure one from an English or 
Scotch University. 

After all, it is not the degree but the ability of a Medical prac- 
titioner that should be appreciated. ..." 

Truly : but the law has something to say about the sign- 
ing of death certificates, the registration of lunatics, the 
recovery of fees, and other incidental details. More straw- 
berry jam labels ! 

The cheque, for over 1000, was presented to S.J.-B. at 
a public meeting, when there was a large gathering of in- 
fluential citizens, the faithful Lord Provost occupying the 
chair. When all expenses were fully paid, a balance remained 
of over 100, which S.J.-B. asked leave to add to an already 
existing "nest-egg" for the purpose of founding a future 
hospital for women officered by women. 

The immediate struggle with the University was not made 
any easier, however, though the " Cause " was gaining 
ground by strides all over the rest of the world. The Scotsman 
continued to give a wholesome lead to the press : indeed no 
woman gained scholastic or other honours anywhere without 
having her name and achievement duly registered with an 
implicit Verb. sap. at the end of the paragraph. 

One is glad to record, too, that one or two delightful holidays 
relieved the strain of this year's work. Mrs. Thorne was 



SOME FRIENDSHIPS AND HOLIDAYS 323 

proving herself a most valuable representative, not com- 
parably so well versed as S. J.-B. in all the minutiae of the 
conflict, but certainly less exacting and easier to work with. 

Considering the stem from which she sprang a Tory 
family of landed gentry S.J.-B. as prophetess had a sur- 
prising amount of honour in her own house. Her conservative 
old friend, Lady Waldegrave, had written a quite touching 
letter of appreciation in April of this year ; and her Norfolk 
uncle and aunt, the Revd. Thomas and Mrs. Gunton actually 
subscribed to the cause and allowed their names to be put an 
her Committee, though Mrs. Gunton had postponed reading 
the papers bearing on the subject for some time, from fear 
that she and her husband would be constrained to refuse. 

" How ANY WOMAN can have a desire for the Medical Pro- 
fession is indeed WONDERFUL," she writes, " but of course 
only very talented ones could go through the stiff examina- 
tions that are required." 

She remarks too, with complacence, that men doctors will be 
kept up to the mark when they have to compete against women. 

In some remote part of Norfolk, Mrs. Jex-Blake gave her 
name in a shop, whereupon " a lady stepped forward and 
said what good work you were doing, but, if we were English, 
we must think very ill of the Scotch. I said No, you had 
received far more kindness than unkindness, having had a 
great many real and warm friends." 

This incident leads one to note that the present year, 1871, 
saw the ripening into lifelong friendship of S. J.-B.'s acquaint- 
ance with Miss Agnes M'Laren, daughter of the Member for 
Edinburgh, a lady who adds one more to the gallery of 
truly noble women with whom we are brought into contact 
when reviewing S. J.-B.'s life. At the time of " the Edinburgh 
Fight," Miss M'Laren was engaged in Suffrage work with 
Miss Taylour, acting as Hon. Secretary to the Association 
(with no paid subordinate to do the drudgery), travelling on 
occasion all over Scotland in serious propagation of her 
principles. 1 She was perhaps the most public-spirited 

1 It is interesting to note that at this time almost all public-spirited 
women thought the suffrage would be granted before the right to a medical 
education. They had so nearly got it more than once ! "You wiD 



324 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

member of a public-spirited family, for the reason that in her 
the strong purpose, shrewd judgment and liberal sympathies 
that characterized all, were combined with an instinctive 
aloofness and even shyness, with a spirit almost of quietism, 
with a real old-world grace of womanhood. 

She was hailed with something like reverence by the work- 
worn, hard-driven students at 15 Buccleuch Place, and almost 
from the first they spoke of her among themselves as " St. 
Agnes," a name to which she characteristically took exception 
as soon as it reached her ears. 

" DEAR Miss M'LAREN," writes S. J.-B. in this connection, 
" You can't seriously suppose that anybody in this house, least 
of all that I, should really laugb at you ! though I don't doubt 
that you are a great deal too humble-minded to understand in the 
least the sort of light in which most of us working women do regard 
you. However we'll keep our pet name for you to ourselves if you 
don't like it." 

And again a few weeks later : 

"15 Buccleuch Place, 

Edinburgh. June 7th. 
DEAR Miss M'LAREN, 

Though we all miss you here almost daily, I am unselfish 
enough to be heartily glad that you are going to Germany. I am 
sure the change of air and scene must do you good, and the chestnut 
trees at Heidelberg must be simply lovely now. 

When you get to the top and sit and look down at the valley of 
the Neckar, you may picture me (as a lonely English teacher at 
Mannheim) going over there on Sundays to church, and climbing 
to that brow to enjoy the setting sun and the infinite peacefulness 
and beauty of the whole scene. 

I only wish I could be there with you ! If you stay at all at 
Mannheim, do go and see my old school, the ' Grossherzogliches 
Institut ' I think they will still remember my name there, and 
I should like so much to hear news of them. They would be electrified 
to hear of me as a doctor. 

I finished up by having scarlet fever there, and shocked them 
all by refusing to submit to the stupid old German regimen of 
starvation and shut windows ! . 



accomplish nothing," S. J-B. was sometimes told. " until we get the vote." 
And one is grimly amused to find her expressing a serious fear that the 
suffrage may be granted before she has had an opportunity of hearing 
her friend, Miss M'Laren, speak in support of it. She need have enter- 
tained no undue apprehension on this score. 



SOME FRIENDSHIPS AND HOLIDAYS 325 

I do most heartily wish you a pleasant journey and great rest and 
refreshment in it. Do you know that when I got your letter such 
a longing came over me to see the Rhine again that for a moment 
I almost thought of asking if you would take me with you, but five 
minutes reflection showed me how wrong and foolish it would be 
for me to leave home just now in the midst of term, and with these 
' appeals ' still undecided, and with my petition to the Senatus 
coming on ! But it was a huge temptation all the same ! " 

This brings us back to the diary : 

" Monday June 5th. The trial over at last. ' Farthing damages ' 
satisfactory, I suppose. 

But I so weary ! If I could but get a month's real rest ! I wake 
feeling driven, I get through nothing all day, and I lie down tired 
out at night. 

Wednesday, June yth. Sur ces entrefaites (as my present 
neighbours would say) came a letter from St. Agnes saying she was 
to go to Heidelberg on Saturday for three weeks. Instantly Why 
shouldn't I go with her, quoth the Infantine. 

Fifty reasons, quoth the Estimable, law, money, study, Senatus, 
etc., etc. 

Telling Pussy l of the temptation overcome, came a proposal to 
' treat Resolution,' urged by her, E.P., and even Mrs. Thome. 

Millar [lawyer] said I could be spared. 

So Thursday went to London with L. and F. Stevenson, . . . Good 
journey. Slept at Hampstead. 

Sunday nth. Morning Stopford Brooke, St. James Chapel, 
York Street. Stood till sermon, then pulpit stairs. . . . 

It might almost have been predicted that S.J.-B. would 
not pass through Paris in a time of peace. The visit was 
destined to prove exciting enough. She just dashes down a 
few polyglot jottings in her diary to serve as stepping-stones 
for memory later on : 

Tuesday i3th. Reached Paris about 6.30. No cabs, no apparent 
chance of any. At length in streets 2 -seated fiacre, drove to [Hotel] 
Folkestone, was deposited, C. M'L. 2 returning for others. 

Friday i6th. Writing all above (from yth. onwards) by open 
window of Hotel F. rain falling on market outside. They not 
back from Versailles, where gone in hope of hearing Assemble^ etc. 



1 The name by which Miss Louisa Stevenson was affectionately known 
in the little circle. 

2 Mr. Charles M'Laren (now Lord Aberconway) and Mr. Walter M'Laren 
were of the party. 



326 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Wednesday. After long trudge found ' voiture de grande 
remise ' 4 frs. the hour, drove by Luxembourg, Notre Dame, Sainte 
Chapelle, etc. (Not allowed to lift written scrap from street from 
heap of ruins by side of Palais de Justice.) Great order and quiet 
everywhere and civility. 

Pantheon dinted with ' obus '. Hotel de Ville gutted, (with all 
registers, etc.) Tuileries, and Palais de Justice Ditto. Ministere 
de Finances even more utterly in ruins, and houses here and there, 
e.g. in Rue Royale by Madeleine and elsewhere. 

Hotel de Clugny incendie but unhurt. All along streets notice 
holes to cellars stopped up with plaster for fear of petroleum. 

Thursday. Drove by Champs Elysees, to Champ de Mars, 
Porte de Neuilly (where such destruction from bombs, etc., vault 
of railway crashed in, trees in splinters, etc.) Then by Quaies, 
into Place de Carrousel between Tuileries and Louvre to Bastille 
Column and (through bad parts of town . . .) to Pere la Chaise, 
with its horrible trenches filled with hundreds of bodies and soaked 
black with petroleum (clothes, etc., burnt over them ?). 

Then that ghastly corner where 250 and 140 (' 4, 5 femmes,') were 
shot ' en pleine vigueur ' crying ' Vive la Republique ! ' as a keen 
young fossier told with evident sympathy, he having had to stand 
by, see the firing, and bury the results. 

Today Friday, i6th. The Petit Moniteur gives a horrible circular 
(torn down last night in the Rue Rochechouard) inciting ' Travail- 
leurs from every country to join against priests, soldiers and tyrants, 
and succeed, or nous nous ensevelirons sous les mines de Paris ! ' 

Fancy crying for fresh bloodshed when steeped in it to the lips 
now ! 

Some Frenchwomen at table curiously indignant at our small care 
about English ' communists ', quite unable to understand how the 
solidarity of national sentiment made such as these late events 
impossible in England, and then, when I mildly said so, shooting 
at me : ' Pourtant, la Revolution ou on a tu6 votre roi ! ' ! ! " 

" Monday 2oth. Went to Versailles to see the Chambre ; un- 
punctual sitting, I only present during some minutes of debate. 
Given ticket in ' D ' by President GreVy. 

6.30. Left Paris via Dieppe. 8 hours roughish sea. 

Tuesday. Brighton." 

So there was no Heidelberg after all, no sitting on the 
brow of the hill to look down on the valley of the Neckar, 
and recall ces jours heureux ou nous Jtions si misfrables. We 
are not told why S.J.-B.'s holiday was cut so short : perhaps 
railway communication was broken for the moment, and it 



SOME FRIENDSHIPS AND HOLIDAYS 327 

proved impossible to proceed : but in any case it may be that 
the intense and unexpected picture of carnage and strife 
served to take her more completely out of herself and her 
worries than the more peaceful experience she would have 
chosen. 

Moreover a real holiday was in store that Autumn, a holiday 
brightened by a visit from Dr. Lucy Sewall. How much 
this meant to her one gathers from the following letter, 
written about this date : 

" MY DARLING, 

I am so sorry for your loss of poor little Scamper, I have 
got a splendid big ' Collie ' for you here, the handsomest I ever 
saw, if you can take him back with you. If, that is, you must go 
back ; but, oh, Lucy, I do so wish you would stay with us here for 
a few years. 

People are getting wild for women doctors here, and you might 
make almost any income, and do quite incalculable good by living 
here for the next five years. 

We have eleven women studying here now, and absolutely no one 
to give them [adequate] uterine teaching ! 

This morning I had a quite spontaneous offer of 200 to help found 
a Women's Hospital here, and I believe that in a week I could get 
ten times that amount promised. 

You should organize everything exactly as you liked, and, re- 
publican wretch as you are, you would be a sort of Queen among 
us, and, what you would care for much more, would do quite 
infinite good to everybody concerned, ladies, poor women, students, 
and all. 

However, you shan't be bothered or worried. I think the strongest 
argument of all will be when you see for yourself how sorely we 
need you. 

I shall not make any definite plans for you till after you come. 
If you like to stay quietly in Scotland all the time, we will do so, 
or I will go with you to Zurich or Paris or anywhere you like. . . . 
Send me eaily word of the steamer by which you expect to come, 
and, if at all possible, I will meet you at Liverpool. . . . 

I send you another copy of my Suffrage speech, and hope you 
have received the newspapers about the trial. 

Your very aff. ^ L j _ R 

Turk has put on mourning for Scamper, crape round his left 
arm, as they do in the army. He evidently quite understands, for 
he doesn't try to get it off. . . ." 



328 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

The reader will not need to be told that S.J.-B. went out 
on the tender to meet her friend at Liverpool, " after awful 
rush previous day with Surgeons' Hall, leader, etc." 

Dr. Sewall's choice of a holiday, happily, was a quiet time, 
mainly in Perthshire ; but, straight from Liverpool, the two 
fellow-workers went to Shipley to see Mrs. Unwin, whose 
health had been failing for some time. 

The friendship between S.J.-B. and her fellow student had 
never flagged. S. J.-B. had paid repeated visits to the 
Yorkshire home, where husband and wife vied with each 
other in the warmth of their welcome, and where both had 
proved most loyal advocates and upholders of the new Cause. 
More than once when a petition was being got ready for 
Parliament on the subject of the medical education of women, 
Mrs. Unwin had proved herself a keen and successful canvasser 
for signatures in her neighbourhood, throwing into the scale 
that weight of personal popularity which is so important a 
factor in the achievement of any aim. She had even paid 
a visit to the beehive at 15 Buccleuch Place, to be made much 
of by the workers, and to be not a little impressed by the 
sight of such divers and strenuous activities. 

And now she was ill, and S.J.-B. was perfectly sure that, 
if anyone could bring healing, it was " the little doctor." 

Fresh courage they brought indeed, a little fresh lease of 
life in which the sufferer recovered strength and proved a 
renewed source of comfort to husband and children before 
she was called hence out of their sight ; but healing in this 
world was not to be. Dis aliter visum. 

In other respects the holiday was a refreshing one. It 
included attendance at a meeting of the British Association 
great joy for Dr. Sewall and a stay at an old Perthshire 
farmhouse, which, to many other attractions in S. J.-B.'s 
eyes, added the crowning one of a ghost, a ghost which 
was visible to the dogs, and abundantly audible to herself 
and Miss Du Pre, though it failed subsequently to make any 
impression on the representatives of the Society for Psychical 
Research. 

From the farmhouse as a centre they made delightful 



SOME FRIENDSHIPS AND HOLIDAYS 329 

excursions, the germ of many subsequent driving-tours in 
Perthshire, and it was on this occasion that the roadside inn 
at Fortingal was discovered, with its restful surroundings, 
cosy interior, and omelettes that constituted a positive object 
in life to the healthy holiday-maker ! 

After a farewell visit to Mrs. Unwin, Dr. Sewall sailed for 
Boston in September, parting from S. J.-B. on the tender 
at Liverpool. Her "log" was a lengthy one, full of wise 
observations and reflection, and every word of it was written 
for S. J.-B 

" MY DEAR ONE, 

... I have been thinking last night that if you and I could 
ever practise together, we ought to do better than either alone, 
for you have many qualities in which I am wanting. I think if we 
were together, you would write a valuable book, and so give the 
world a higher idea of women doctors. I know I shall never succeed 
in writing a good book by myself. 

It hardly seems worth while to make you read all my fancies, 
but it seems to bring you nearer to me while I am writing, and the 
days are so long and lonely here." 

" When I lie awake nights and think of you wanting me to help you 
in Edinburgh, it seems to me as if I must break off from all my ties, 
and come back to you at once ; but then my New England conscience 
wakes up and tells me that my life must be duty and not pleasure, 
and I try to be contented with doing the work that God gives me, 
and trust that when I am really at work it will be all right. 

I do hope that you are having a nice quiet time with Miss Du 
Pre, and getting rested." 

" It is just a week now since I said Goodbye to you, but it seems 
almost like a month to me. Last night for the first time since I 
left, I dreamed of having patients instead of dreaming of you." 



CHAPTER XI 
THE QUESTION OF PROFESSIONAL EXAMINATION 

APART from the ghost which was a pure joy, though a very 
exciting one S. J.-B.'s holiday was broken in upon by very 
disturbing rumours. 

It was whispered by some of those who might have been 
supposed to know, that notwithstanding the paragraphs 
that still stood in the University Calendar (see p. 260) an effort 
would be made to prevent any new women candidates from 
undergoing the Preliminary Examination, and from matricu- 
lating. Worse than this, it was hinted that a similar effort 
would be made to prevent the women who had been studying 
for that express purpose for two years, from presenting them- 
selves for the First Professional Examination. 

There were positive difficulties apart from these vague 
rumours. In a previous chapter we saw that the President 
of the Royal College of Physicians and the President of the 
Royal College of Surgeons had refused to preside at the prize- 
giving " if lady students were to be present and to receive 
their prizes on that occasion." This announcement was 
followed by a decision on the part of the lecturers at Surgeons' 
Hall " to rescind the permission given last summer to those 
lecturers who desired to admit ladies to their classes," " it 
being, however, understood that the prohibition should not 
extend to the instructions by Dr. Keiller [in Midwifery] and 
others, of women who were not registered students of medicine." 

It was still open to the women, of course, to get Extra- 
Mural lecturers to teach them elsewhere, if rooms could be 
found and the necessary arrangements made ; but, as regarded 



the original students, an automatic deadlock arose at this 
point of which certain Professors unhappily elected to avail 
themselves : 

By the rules of the University only four classes might be 
taken from Extra-Mural (non-professorial) teachers, and the 
original students had already taken these four. Professor 
Christison's class was one of those that came next in turn, 
and it would, perhaps, have been expecting too much of human 
nature that he should have chosen this moment in which to 
lay down his arms. In any case, he refused point blank. 

In this dilemma, the women appealed to the Senatus, (l) 
to appoint special University lecturers (assistants to the 
Professors or others) whose payment the women would 
guarantee ; or (2) alternatively, to relax, in the case of the 
women, the ordinary regulations, so that they might take 
an increased number of Extra-Mural classes. 

Counsel's opinion was taken by the Senatus as to the powers 
of the University in this respect, and, an opinion adverse to 
the wishes of the women having been received, the Senatus 
decided by a majority of one to take no action in the matter. 

Promptly S.J.-B. and her Committee submitted the facts 
to other counsel (the Lord Advocate and Sheriff Eraser) and 
received the opinion (i) that it was quite competent to the 
University authorities to make any necessary provision for 
the completion of the ladies' education : and (2) that the 
Medical Faculty were bound to admit the ladies to professional 
examination on the subjects in which they were already 
qualified to pass. 

This latter point was included with special reference to the 
incredible rumours referred to above. 

As the day of the examinations drew near and nothing 
happened, the leaders among the women began to feel re- 
assured. The following letters, however, show how well- 
founded their fears were : 

" Private. 

MY DEAR Miss J EX-BLAKE, 0*- 2 - 7 1 - 

I shall be at the Senatus any day you like, unless prevented 
by something of which I hav<. no present prospect. 

I was glad to hear, from my wife, . . . that Mr. Fraser has given 



332 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

you a favourable opinion. His view that the Professors are bound 
to teach all persons who present Matriculation tickets to them, is 
what I have always held, and I believe often expiessed to you. In 
the same way I should say, they are bound to examine them. What 
you must do now, then, I fancy, is to present your Mat : tickets 
' and class fees and demand class tickets, and present your Certificates, 
etc., and demand Examination, and, on either or both being refused, 
claim a legal remedy. If possible you ought to go to the Court of 
Session and not to the University Court ; and to the 2nd Division, 
if you have to go beyond the Lord Ordinary. Moncrieff will be 
much influenced by Eraser's opinion, whereas Inglis will be influenced, 
if at all, in the wrong direction. As Chancellor, however, I should 
think he would himself decline to sit as a Judge in a case which may 
come before him in the former capacity. 

With kind regards from Mrs. Lorimer, believe me, 

Yours very truly, 

J. LORIMER. 

" 1 6 Charlotte Square, 
Edinburgh. 

Friday, Oct. isth. 1871. 
DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

... I should very much like to see the legal opinion you 
have obtained upon the point of legal responsibility as incurred by 
the University Court in their pragmatic sanction of the lady students 
matriculating and passing their preliminary examination. 

A legal opinion depends so entirely upon the manner in which 
the matter is laid before counsel, and usually leaves so many loop- 
holes for escape unperceived by a non-professional eye, that I am 
always jealous of such opinions unless the interpretation thereof is 
given by someone of good common sense and legal experience. . . . 

I shall be at home tomorrow (Saturday) evening at 7.40 p.m. 
when it will give me the greatest pleasure to see you, if that will 
suit your convenience. 

Is it true that Mrs. de Lacy Evans is engaged to Mr. Russel of 

the Scotsman ? ! ! ! 

Most faithfully yours, 

PATRICK HERON WATSON." 

Here is a significant little letter, too, from the Secretary to 
the University : 

" Inveresk. Oct. 13. 
DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I have instructed Mr. Gilbert 1 to receive the money [for the 
First Professional Examn.] and give the customary acknowledg- 
ments, so that you may be all right with the Dean. 

1 Clerk of the University. 



QUESTION OF PROFESSIONAL EXAMINATION 333 

I am bound to call a meeting of Senatus upon a requisition signed 
by 3 Professors. Secure a day likely to suit your friends. Saturday 
is not a good day generally, and on Friday 2 or 3 are coming down 
here to dine, at least they are asked to do so. 
How would Thursday or Monday do ? 

Yours truly, 

JOHN WILSON." 

That afternoon, we are told, there was a " furious row " 
in the Medical Faculty, and a day or two later each of the 
women candidates for the First Professional Examination 
received a copy of the following letter : 

" University of Edinburgh, 

October I4th, 1871. 
MADAM, 

I am instructed by the Medical Faculty to inform you that 
your name and your fees have been received in error by the Clerk 
of the University as a candidate for the first professional examina- 
tion during the present month, but that the Faculty cannot receive 
you for such examination without the sanction of the Senatus 
Academicus. 

I am, Madam, 

Your obedient servant, 

J. H. BALFOUR, 
Dean of the Medical Faculty." 

Two days later S.J.-B. received the following letter with 
reference to the Preliminary Examination : 

" University of Edinburgh, Oct. 16. 1871. 
MADAM, 

I am desired by the Dean of the Medical Faculty to inform 
you that he has been interdicted by the Faculty from giving 
examination papers to ladies on the I7th and i8th curt. 

Kindly communicate this fact to the ladies whose names you 
some time ago handed in to me for this examination. 

I am, etc., 

THOMAS GILBERT." 

It will be noticed that the letter was dated oh the day 
previous to that on which the examination was to take place. 
Three ladies had come or were on their way from various 
parts of the kingdom to submit to it. 1 If they were not 
allowed to enter, they would be thrown back in their profess- 
sional studies for a whole year. 



334 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Most women and men would have sat down under this 
blow. S. J.-B. went straight to her solicitor and took him 
with her to see the advocate (Mr. Fraser). The following 
is a copy of the letter that was sent by them to the Dean of 
the Medical Faculty : 

" Chambers, 8 Bank Street, 

Edinburgh. Oct. i6th. 1871. 
DEAR SIR, 

We have been instructed to obtain the opinion of counsel 
with reference to the legality of your refusal to admit ladies to the 
Preliminary Examination in Arts, which will take place tomorrow. 

We beg now to enclose the memorial submitted, and the opinion 
given thereon by Mr. Patrick Fraser, for your perusal, and request 
that you will, at your earliest convenience, return them to us. 

We beg to point out that you are individually responsible if the 
refusal is persisted in, and that we have been instructed, in that 
case, to raise actions for damages against you at the instance of each 
of the memorialists. You will also observe that the instructions 
of the Medical Faculty, being in themselves illegal, will be no defence 
against such actions. 

We trust that you will, in these circumstances, reconsider the 
matter, and see fit to retract the refusal, and prevent the necessity 
of further proceedings. 

We are, etc., 

MILLAR, ALLARDICE & ROBSON, W.S. 
Professor Balfour, M.D., 
Dean of the Medical Faculty." 

There was no loss of time in receiving the reply : 

" University of Edinburgh, Oct. i6th., iSji. 1 
DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I have received the legal notice from your solicitor. Under 
these circumstances I shall not take the responsibility of refusing 
the ladies admission to the preliminary examination as heretofore. 
But I must inform you that I admit them provisionally until the 
matter is decided by the proper authorities, and without prejudice 
as regards myself. 

I am, etc., 

J. H. BALFOUR." 

So the ladies were duly examined in the ordinary 
course. 

1 The dates of these three letters are correctly given. They were all 
delivered by hand. 



QUESTION OF PROFESSIONAL EXAMINATION 335 

On applying for Matriculation tickets, however, they were 
informed by the clerk that the Principal of the University 
had written him word that, in consequence of representations 
made to him by Professor Christison, no ladies were at present 
to be allowed to matriculate. " Of course," said a friendly 
professor, " the Principal had no more authority to issue this 
decree than had the janitor." 

In this case, fortunately, there was time to call a meeeting 
of Senatus, as referred to by Professor Wilson above (letter 
of October 13), and the necessary requisition was signed by 
Professors Crum Brown, Tait, and Liston. 

[Diary.] " Tuesday iyth. Preliminary examination all right, 
Mundy, Dahms, and Miller. Dr. Alex. Wood takes Motion in 
General Council. 

Thursday, igth. Leader written yesterday, in proof today. 
I, oh, so tired ! Settled about motions in Senatus. Med. Fac. 
want Lord Advocate's opinion, seem shaking in their shoes. 

Ah, we will win, but the price ! " 

Poor little Despotic Emperor ! Where was her Sackermena ? 

" It may be that the gulphs will bear us down, 
It may be we shall reach the happy isles ..." 

" How these worries must increase the difficulties of study in the 
case of each one of you ; " wrote a faithful friend, the Dowager 
Countess of Buchan, next day. " But then the certainty of success 
somehow, as the dear Newman used to say, when he meant that there 
were benedictions in the air ; and that you will surely have worked 
out the greatest possible benefit for womankind for all generations, 
even if hostilities are prolonged, must be a support now and an 
abundant recompense, I hope, for all your toils when they are happily 
concluded." 

About the same time another " honourable woman " was 
writing : 

" SIR, 

I venture to trouble you with a post office Order for 2, 
payable from me to yourself, as my small contribution to the 
Fund needed by the General Committee for securing a Complete 
Medical Education for Women in Edinburgh. 

The question is so important, and the Lady-students have mani- 
fested so fine a spirit and temper under the harassing trials, that 



336 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

a large proportion of their countrymen will, I trust, feel the obligation 
of sustaining them during their conflict with jealousies and pre- 
judices which will scarcely be credited by a future generation. 

Permit me to offer you my thanks for the service you render to 
a good cause by managing the financial concerns of the movement, 
and believe me, Sir, with much respect, 

Yours, 

HARRIET MARTINEAU. 
W. L. Reid, Esq." 

At the Senatus meeting on Oct. 2 1st., the question of 
admitting women to the First Professional Examination was 
discussed, and the Medical Faculty was instructed to examine 
them. It is interesting to know that all the candidates 
passed. 

But S.J.-B. was not one of them. All her strength was 
being spent in carving out the way. 

It was matter for congratulation, of course, that the schemes 
of the enemy had been foiled ; but the friends of the women 
in the University were now more anxious than ever to raise the 
whole question on to a level above these harassing obstacles. 
At a meeting of the University Council Dr. Alexander Wood 
moved that " the University is bound in honour and justice 
to render it possible for these women who have already 
commenced their studies, to complete them." 

" This," said the Lancet, " is precisely the ground we 
have always taken up about the matter ; and we hope the 
General Council of the University will, by the adoption of Dr. 
Alexander Wood's motion, put an end to the controversy 
which has redounded so little to the credit of that school." 

Dr. Wood made a brave and telling little speech, and was 
ably seconded by Mr. Alexander Nicolson. In moving the 
amendment, Professor Turner, with great shrewdness, quoted 
S. J.-B.'s letter to the Dean of the Medical Faculty of two years 
before (see p. 235), a letter which, at a superficial glance, 
looked like the weakest point in her case the letter in 
which she had signified her willingness " to withdraw my 
application altogether if, after due and sufficient trial, it 
should be found impracticable to grant me a continuance 
of the favour which I now request " ; and of course 
no one present knew enough of the facts to reply. It was 



QUESTION OF PROFESSIONAL EXAMINATION 337 

only after Dr. Wood's motion had been lost by 107 votes to 97, 
that S. J.-B. had an opportunity of pointing out in the 
hospitable columns of the Scotsman that the letter quoted 
had reference only to the tentative proposal that she, alone 
and without matriculation, should attend Professor Balfour's 
and Professor Allman's summer courses. This proposal the 
University had refused, " deferring the whole question till 
a permanent plan could be arranged and formally 
sanctioned by all the necessary authorities, which was 
finally accomplished after eight months of consideration and 
delay." 

This is one instance out of hundreds of S. J.-B.'s extra- 
ordinary ability to refute statements that looked true, that 
might have been true, that were nearly true, by a precise 
quotation of facts. It was an ability that made for her 
more enemies than friends as life went on. Let it be noted, 
too, that, but for the generosity of the press, she never could 
have corrected such statements at all. 

" To sum up the whole matter in one word," she wrote, " I will 
venture to say, that, instead of the daily trials of the past two years 
and the apparent deadlock at which we have now arrived, we should 
have found nothing but smooth paths for our feet, and no difficulties 
from either students or professors, had Dr. Christison but kept to 
the promise he voluntarily made to me at the close of my single 
interview of two minutes with him 2 years ago ' I shall vote 
against you, but I shall take no measures to oppose you.' " 

Once more the Lancet made dignified protest : 

" The Edinburgh school has come badly out of its imbroglio with 
the lady students. The motion of Dr. Alexander Wood, to which 
we made reference last week, was negatived by a majority of ten. 
As we then pointed out, the issue before the General Council was 
neither more nor less than this, to keep faith with the female 
students whom the University had allowed to proceed two years 
in their medical curriculum. The Council was not asked to commit 
itself in the slightest degree to any opinion, favourable or unfavour- 
able, to the admission of ladies'to a medical career. It had only to 
concede, in common courtesy, not to say common fairness, the right 
to which the best legal advice had clearly shown the female students 
to be entitled, the right to carry on the studies they had been 
allowed to prosecute half way towards graduation. Will it be 



338 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

believed ? An amendment postponing the settlement of the difficulty 
till it had been duly considered by the authorities of the University, 
was put and carried ; as if there was any more room for ' considera- 
tion ' in the matter ! Thus Edinburgh stands convicted of having 
acted unfairly towards seven ladies, whom she first accepted as 
pupils, and then stopped half-way in their career." 1 

Move and countermove follow with bewildering rapidity 
at this time. Within a fortnight Professor Muirhead is 
urging the Senatus to rescind the regulations for the admission 
of women to the University, reserving the rights of those 
already entered ; and this is passed by a majority of one,: 
14 to 13. 

Eighteen Professors, however, rose up in wrath to protest 
against this decision, and as only fifteen, out of a total of 
thirty-five, could be got to support it, the regulations of 
Nov. 1869, were confirmed by the University Court, and 
everything was left in statu quo \ 2 

Meanwhile in addition to classes for the seniors arrange- 
ments had to be made for the three new students who had 
entered. It was probably in connection with these that 
S. J.-B. received the following letter : 

" 17 Drummond Place, 

December 23rd. /yi. 
DEAR MADAM, 

As you will probably be aware before you receive this, I have 
been utterly unsuccessful in my attempts to bring my Colleague to 
my own way of looking at the matter in question. 

I may mention to you that my own impression, derived from 
various conversations with several of the most prominent of your 
opponents, is that they would have but little objection to give you, 
or at least to make arrangements for giving you, the instruction 
you seek provided it were sought as a favor and not claimed as 



1 Lancet, November 4, 1871. 

2 " The Court find it inexpedient at present to rescind the said resolutions 
and regulations, and therefore decline to give effect to the decision of the 
Senatus. The Court must not be understood as indicating by this deliver- 
ance any opinion as to the claims of women to proceed to graduation, or 
as to the power of the University to confer on women degrees in the 
Faculty of Medicine." Commd. by direction of the University Court. J. 
Christison, W.S., Sec. 



QUESTION OF PROFESSIONAL EXAMINATION 339 

a right in other words I think many of them are anxious to avoid 
making what might be called a precedent. This I give you confi- 
dentially and merely as an impression, but I have little doubt of its 
being at least nearly a correct one. 

Believe me, dear Madam, 

Yours truly, 

P. G. TAIT." 

This was the letter of a wise man, and it might, perhaps, 
have been better for the cause in the immediate future if 
S. J.-B. had acted on the advice it contained. Her reply 
is not forthcoming, but we know quite well that she was not 
prepared to run the risk involved in acting on the advice. 
Two women had already secured registration " by a postern 
gate," and that was not her aim. She longed no one more 
to write M.D. after her name ; but she would, as a matter of 
course, have foregone that right forever, if, by so doing, she 
could have opened the gate for all. 



CHAPTER XII 
THE ROYAL INFIRMARY 

A YEAR previously to the date we have reached, Robert Louis 
Stevenson had written in a letter to his cousin : 

" You will probably know how nicely woman's rights were received 
by some of my fellow students the other day. The female medicals 
were hooted, hissed and jostled till the police interfered. My views 
are very neutral. I quite believe that Miss Jex-Blake and the rest 
of our fellow studentesses are the first of a noble army, pioneers, 
Columbuses and all that sort of thing. But at the same time, Miss 
Jex-Blake is playing for the esteem of posterity. Soit, I give her 
posterity, but I won't marry either her, or her fellows. Let posterity 
marry them. If posterity gets hold of this letter I shall probably 
be burnt in effigy by some Royal Female College of Surgeons of the 
future." 

It was many years before this letter was brought to S. J.-B.'s 
notice, and when it was, she received it with a hearty laugh of 
genuine appreciation. She enjoyed R. L. S. much more than 
he enjoyed her, but she had never had the smallest wish to 
marry him ! 

He was entirely wrong, moreover, in the assumption that 
the women students would have to wait for posterity to marry 
them. This very autumn of 1871 to the profound sorrow 
and discomfiture of many upholders of the movement saw 
the engagement of no less than three of them. * Mrs. Evans' 
engagement has been already noted in a letter from Dr. 
Patrick Heron Watson. In a characteristic passage, we learn 
how the news of it came to S. J.-B.'s ears : 

" After my business over with R., I rose to go. 
' Oh, sit down a minute. So your class is thinning ? ' [Miss 
Anderson had been married a month before]. 



THE ROYAL INFIRMARY 341 

' Yes,' quoth I dolorously. ' We've lost one.' 

' And I hear you're going to lose another ! ' 

' Oh, no,' protestingly. ' I hope not.' 

' But I think so.' 

' Do you ? Well, have you heard who ? ' 

' Mrs. Evans.' 

' Oh, no, I don't believe it.' 

' Well, she told me so herself.' 

' Did she ? and who on earth to ? ' 

R. got red up to top of bald crown. ' Have you no idea ? ' 

' No,' (a fib by this time). 

' Really no idea ? ' 

' How should I ? ' 

' Well, she asked me to tell you about it, does that give you 
an idea ? ' 

' Mr. R. I you don't mean to say it's you ? ' 

Great redness, and ' Yes, I do.' 

' Well ! ! ! ' I hope your treachery will go between you and 
your sleep ! ' 

' Now don't you be hard upon her ! Will you go and see her ? ' 

' No, certainly not. The most she can expect is that I don't send 
a policeman after her.' 

' And brand her with D ? ' 

' Yes. You may tell her I won't do that, and that's the utmost 
she can expect ! ' 

And leaving, ' Well, I think you're an uncommonly lucky man, 
but I hope your conscience will prevent youi sleeping ! ' 

This was all very well, but the blow was a severe one, 
especially as Miss Chaplin was married to Professor Ayrton 
a month or two later. 

" I do hope you and Miss Pechey will remain firm to the end," 
writes Miss M'Laren plaintively, " for really three marriages within 
six months is quite alarming." 

How many times Miss Pechey was urged to forsake the 
good fight one cannot even roughly conjecture. Certainly 
very often. 1 

1 The following scrap has been inadvertently preserved. There is not 
even any certain indication to whom it is addressed : 

" When I came into the Anatomical room and saw you sitting there 
dissecting, I was overpowered, utterly conquered. When I spoke to 
you and you looked up at me to answer, the look you gave me was the 
coup de mort ! I determined then in my own mind to seek you for my 
wife. . . 

But to see you as you were then with your superlative beauty, working 



342 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

There was no time, however, to weep over fallen comrades. 
One must just give them decent burial, so to speak, and pass 
on. From this time forth the work in hand must take a 
two-fold direction : 

1. The struggle in Edinburgh must be carried on with 
unabated energy, as if success were a matter of course. 

2. Every enquiry must be made, with the utmost secrecy 
and discretion, as to a more hopeful solution of the problem 
elsewhere. 

The following letters indicate some of the influences at work : 

"13 Sussex Square, 
Brighton. 

i. November. 
DARLING, 

You must not think I don't sympathize with you, but I am 
so vexed and perplexed really I don't know what to say. I always 
hope you can see the next step in a clearer and brighter light than 
I do, and, you are sure you have my best wishes. I am rather 
uneasy about you, being sure you must be worn and harassed, and 
can hardly know what to do next. 

I am very glad the examinations were successfully passed. . . . 

Your loving, 

M. E. J.-B." 

" Trinity College, 
Cambridge, 

Oct. 18. 1871. 
DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

Mr. Sidgwick has shown me in " the Scotsman " a notice to 
the effect that they are attempting to exclude you from paying the 
fees at Edinburgh. 

Are they making a final effort to reject you ? Will it be successful ? 
If so, have you any plan of action. 

Please let us know, for Mr. Sidgwick and I have been consulting 
together, and have made up our minds that we will try all that we 
can now for your admission to this university, and we are ready to 



so bravely, so sensibly, all fashion, frivolity and folly cast aside, was 
to me so new, so strange and so admirable a sight, that on considering 
and re-considering it, I don't wonder at myself for flinging aside ordinary 
prudence to make a snatch at a jewel of such unusual brilliancy." 

It is almost disappointing to reflect that the recipient of this tribute 
was not equally prepared to " fling aside ordinary prudence." 



THE ROYAL INFIRMARY 343 

begin, if you feel that this is your best place to turn to, and if you 
need it. Let us know then. 

We feel quite sure of ultimate success here in the matter of full 
admission of women to the whole benefits of the university. 

Still we do not know how distant ' Ultimate ' may be. We are 
not sanguine of success at present in your cause. Still we think it 
worth while trying, if it would materially help you. 
T am, 

Yours truly, 

JAMES STUART." 

So there were very brave people in Cambridge as well as 
in Edinburgh : for Mr. Stuart as well as Mr. Sidgwick knew 
all about that unfortunate speech and the lawsuit to which 
it led. S. J.-B. had scrupulously sent them the records ; 
and, as a matter of fact, Mr. Sidgwick had been one of the 
many distinguished people who subscribed to the Fund for 
defraying the expenses of the lawsuit. 

If only the struggle had ended here : if only the University 
had consented to give the women the little ledge they coveted 
on its precipitous wall : or, failing that, if some young, 
enlightened university had said, " Come to us ! " the story 
would be in all ways a pleasanter one to tell. But that is not 
how things happen in life. Removal to another university 
at this stage would simply have meant beginning the fight 
all over again ; and Edinburgh blundering old Edinburgh 
was so kind, so homelike, with its great army of friends, many 
of them convinced that victory lay within sight, that the 
inducement to stay in spite of all was great. The very next 
turn of the wheel might revolutionize all things. 

Meanwhile the protagonist had been on the strain for nearly 
three years, and she was growing very weary of the struggle : 
she was losing a little of the verve that had carried her on 
hitherto. The incessant canvassing, organizing and writing 
had developed her inherent business capacity to the last 
point, and was making her a little intolerant of unbusiness- 
like ways in other people. It was more difficult than formerly 
in journalism and in verbal argument to show herself all things 
to all men as she had done so finely in those first calls on 
the Professors. But she had not the smallest idea of giving 



344 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

in : like a strong man lost in the snow, she was conscious 
mainly of a resolute determination to keep going on somehow. 

" Your cause is sure to win," Dr. Guthrie said to her about 
this time ; " but a cause may be won at the cost of a life." 

" I know," she replied, " I am prepared to give it mine." 

But she did not mean to die if she could help it until the 
work was done. 

In any case the next move was fairly clear. The Annual 
Meeting of Contributors to the Royal Infirmary was coming 
round once more, and again the election turned on the question 
of the admission of the women to the wards. S. J.-B. went 
doggedly on with her canvassing, but the outer public was 
getting a little bored with the whole subject, and she herself 
had no longer the attraction of freshness and novelty. In 
those days perseverance was not reckoned a special virtue 
in a woman, and persistence was a positive vice. She received 
one nasty snub (conveyed through the office-boy) from one 
who had been almost a friend, and, in order to understand 
what this meant to her, we must remember that family 
tradition was strong in her still. Pelted with peas or pursued 
by a mud-throwing mob, she never for a moment forgot that 
she was, in her own way, grande dame. And now she was 
too tired to brush the little insult off. " I was fool enough 
to go out with eyes so full of tears that I doubted being fit 
for my next call." 

But the moral thews and sinews were in fine fighting form, 
and the ideals of youth were as fresh as ever. The very words 
of the old inspiring quotations rose to her mind. How sur- 
prised the old managers would have been if they had heard 
them ! They thought it was only that weary question of 
Miss Jex-Blake and the Infirmary. 

Kindly folk were many, however, and every now and then 
she met an unexpected tribute of appreciation or respect ; 
and sufficient votes were gained to make the dreary proceeding 
worth while. 1 

1 It was at this Christmas season that Miss Miranda Hill sent to her 
old friend, in the form of a brooch, a "winged Victory," meaning, she 
said, "many things," "the victory of a stedfast noble purpose over 
outward obstacles, of love over time." 



THE ROYAL INFIRMARY 345 

Sometimes she would return from these missions to find 
herself called out to a slum maternity case undertaken through 
the mediation of a friendly doctor. Then, 

" Home after 10 p.m. Then to write leadet for Monday. Done 
about 12.15. Then to relight fire and get warm, then bed ! " 

" Sunday, [Dec.] 3ist. Wrote paragraphs and finished article. 
Went down to Scotsman Office. . . . 

Oh, dear, I hope the things will be in right tomorrow, and oh, 
how I hope we may win ! 

We have 296 votes more or less promised. We ought. 

Now, ' ring out the old, ring in the new ' Ah, that it may be 
so in some things, ' Ring out the care that frets the mind ' l Ring 
in quiet and peace and liberty, ' leave to toil '." 

Next day the great meeting took place, and this time a 
large hall had been taken for the purpose. 

As before, six candidates were proposed by those in power, 
and six by those in favour of the women. The task of the 
latter was made easier by the fact that the suggestion of 
mixed classes had been given up some two or three months 
before, the Committee for Securing a Complete Medical 
Education for Women in Edinburgh having undertaken to 
guarantee the payment of teachers, and to provide suitable 
rooms and accommodation for the classes, if the University 
should find this latter an insoluble problem. 

Professor Christison pointed out incidentally that 80 beds 
at 40 a bed would be one item in the reckoning. 

When the votes were counted there were : 

For the Women, . . . . 177 
For the Powers, . . . , 168 

" The result was received with great cheering and waving 
of handkerchiefs from the ladies' party." 
Professor Masson then proceeded to move : 

" That henceforward all registered students of Medicine shall be 
admitted to the educational advantages of the Infirmary without 
distinction of sex, all details of arrangements, however, being left 
to the discretion of the managers." 



1 " Ring out the grief that saps the mind," is Tennyson's line. S. J.-B.'s 
version needs no explanation. 



346 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

The hostile party raised an objection to this on the ground 
of want of adequate notice though Professor Masson had, 
as a matter of fact, advertised it in the public papers as 
required and, through an indescribable hubbub, the proposer 
stood his ground, ably supported by Professor Calderwood 
and by Mr. M'Laren, M.P. When it became clear that they 
were going to carry their point, the opposing party rose and 
left the hall almost en masse ; and it was then that Dr. Guthrie 
made what proved to be his last public speech, in support of 
Professor Masson's motion. At the close of his peroration, 
with a wave of his hand towards the door through which the 
great retreat had taken place, he concluded with the lines 
S. J.-B. had quoted in her diary the night before, 

" Ring out the old, ring in the new, . . . 
Ring out the false, ring in the true ! " 

The motion was then put to the meeting and carried 
unanimously. 

"I, oh so tired ! " says S. J.-B., " hearing voices round 
me in a sort of swoon." 

Her letter-bag for the next few days was enough to put 
new life into anyone. 

" 24 Hill Street, 

Edinburgh. 

" My dear Miss Blake, and all your brave sisterhood, Three cheers 
for you and one cheer more ! My husband has just come back and 
told me of your victory. 

May this be an augury of future success in every direction. 
Ever very truly yours, 

E. H. S. BLACKIE." 

A lawyer who had strenuously opposed the idea of mixed 
classes writes, 

" For your sake, I shall make my first charity this year 5 to the 
Infirmary." 

And no one was more enthusiastic than the young man 
who was demonstrator of Anatomy at the time of the riot : 

" It would be almost a mockery to wish you all a Happy New 
Year after such success. It is enough to turn one's head, but only, 
I suppose, the heads which hammered on so hard in defeat, or rather 
repulse, are not to be turned with victory." 



THE ROYAL INFIRMARY 347 

It would have been almost a mockery, certainly, though not 
in the sense he meant. 

" Sunday, Jan. yth. Hear that the doctors are going about 
getting their patients to sign papers, exact tenor unknown." 

True enough, here were already the first mutterings of a 
fresh storm, and indeed, most people must have been rather 
uneasy at so terrifying a victory. 

" Dear Miss Jex-Blake," writes Dr. Heron Watson on January 5th, 
" See to it that there is a full representation on behalf of the 
ladies on Monday week at the adjourned meeting, as I expect foul 
play ! . . ." 

And another lawyer writes : 

" DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I don't know whether you are taking any means to secure 
a muster of your friends at the Infirmary meeting on Monday week ; 
but I think it would be worth while to do so. I am afraid our 
opponents may attempt a surprise for the purpose of rescinding the 
Statute passed at last meeting as to the admission of Lady Students. 
I have not heard that they have any such plan on foot ; but as no 
notice requires to be given of any such motion, they may not impro- 
bably try it, trusting to our being off our guard. ' 

Yours truly, 

WILLIAM ROBSON." 

A fortnight after the Annual Meeting, the Contributors met 
to hear the result of a scrutiny of the votes, and it was then 
that the following unexpected issue quite distinct, of course, 
from the immediate object of the scrutiny was thrust upon 
them : 

On the side of the women had voted, 

28 firms, 
31 ladies, 
7 doctors. 

On the side of the powers, 

14 firms, 
2 ladies, 
37 doctors. 

It was now claimed that the votes of firms were incom- 



348 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

petent, and that the majority really lay on the other 
side. 

" It mattered nothing," said the Scotsman, 1 " that firms had voted 
ever since the Infirmary was founded ; that contributors qualified 
only as members of firms had, as has now been ascertained, sat 
over and over again on the Board of Management, and on the Com- 
mittee of Contributors. It was of equally slight importance that 
the firms whom it was now sought to disqualify had been among the 
most generous benefactors of the charity, and that, with the imminent 
prospect befor . them of great pecuniary necessity, it would probably 
be impossible, without their aid, to carry out even the plans for the 
new building. The firms had voted in favour of the ladies, and the 
firms must go, if at least the law would (as it probably will not) 
bear out the medical men in their reckless endeavour to expel 
them." 

An appeal to law, however, is a slow affair, and on this 
occasion there was obviously no inducement for the law to 
bestir itself unduly. It was not till July 23rd that Lord 
Jerviswoode pronounced the votes of firms to be perfectly 
valid. 

The case was appealed to a higher court, where it did not 
come on for trial till the end of October : it was then again 
postponed and judgment was not given till December. 

" Dec. 7th. Saturday. Judgment from Second Division in our 
favour on all points." 

The Annual Meeting was now once more at hand, however, 
when new managers might be elected who were unfriendly 
to the women. Needless to say the woman's party lost no 
time. A Contributors' meeting was called for December i6th, 
and another for December 23rd, when a vote was passed 
admitting the women to the Infirmary on condition that 
their visits were to be separate from those of the men, and 
that they were to go only to those wards where their presence 
was invited by the physicians. 

So at last they got their tickets, and began an attendance 
which was to " qualify " for graduation. 

" Qualify " in the technical sense ; assuredly not in any 
other. What the girl graduate of the present day would 
1 January 29, 1872. 



THE ROYAL INFIRMARY 349 

say to such qualification, one need scarcely ask. Here is 
S. J.-B.'s account of it : 

" Dr. Balfour gave us a separate hour in his wards three times a 
week, and such chances of practical study as could be arranged from 
time to time. Dr. Watson's very large practice, as the most eminent 
surgeon in Scotland, made it impossible for him, at whatever incon- 
venience, to repeat his visit in this manner, and our enemies would 
have gained their point, had he not, with a kindness which I find 
myself even now quite unable to acknowledge duly, given up for the 
two whole winter sessions his Sunday mornings (his one day of rest) 
to our instruction, while steadily refusing to accept any fees whatever 
for this great sacrifice of his time and strength. Few more chivalrous 
acts were ever done, and I only hope he found his reward in the 
lifelong gratitude of a dozen women, who were not at that time 
too much accustomed to such kindness and courtesy as his." 

To the end of her life, S. J.-B. looked upon these two men 
as " the shadow of a great rock in a weary land," and another 
name she would have added with (in one sense) even better 
reason that of Dr. Peel Ritchie, who, a strong Conservative, 
absolutely and avowedly at that time without sympathy for 
the " cause," from a sheer sense of fair play, gave up his 
class of men at the Royal Dispensary in order to teach a 
class of women instead. 

Of course S. J.-B. was a " celebrity " by this time. Here 
is an amusing letter from a distinguished man who had been 
asked to meet her and her friends at dinner : 

[Letter undated.] 
MY DEAR EDITOR, 

Wae's me that I am engaged on Saturday ! If I could on 
any decent pretence get off I would do it aftsoons, for apart from the 
pleasure of meeting yourself and Mrs. R., I would like fine to meet 
the other ladies in such company, especially some of them. I won't 
say which ! 

But I accepted an invitation the other day from to meet a 

Mr. a very nice Irishman that's working at our Celtic MSS., and 

I promised to show the Milesian the way. So though I would go 
far for the sake of the ladies and of you, I feel that it would be 

rather too flagrant a breach of faith to tell old that I have 

another engagement which I had forgotten. I wish he or his wife 
would take some harmless disease for a day or two and put off 
their dinner. 



350 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

I needn't say that I appreciate immensely the distinction of being 
asked as the one man in Edinburgh worthy of admission to that 
select company ! It's equal to the Cross of the Legion of Honour 
and a great deal better. There's something in the idea too that 
piques the imagination. It's as if but far better a favoured 
mortal got a special card per Ganymede, to sup quietly in Olympus 
with Mr. and Mrs. Jupiter and the Misses Minerva, Diana and 
Urania : or like being asked by a Flamen and his wife to meet three 
of the Vestal Virgins over a jar of Falernian ; or again like an invi- 
tation from the grand Lama to have a little jollification with a few 
Buddhist lady abbesses in the innermost shrine of the great temple 
at Lassa, or from a chief of Carbonari to take a glass and pipe with 
Mazzini, Garibaldi, etc. There's no end of the things it suggests. 

As to your unworthy fears, fie upon them ! You are more to be 
envied than the Sultan, the Pope or Brigham Young. 

Hoping to have a chance some other time of doing homage to the 
Trinity, and to have the pleasure soon of calling upon Mrs. Russel. 

I rest, 

Ever Yours, 



And her fame or notoriety extended to the most unex- 
pected classes of society. " Miss Jex-Blake had that house 
last year," the driver of a Highland coach would say, pointing 
with his whip in the direction of the farm where she had 
stayed. Her name occurred repeatedly in that year's panto- 
mime, and Harlequin and Columbine had called to ask if she 
had any objection to this, an incident which she always 
recalled with amusement and appreciation. The main refer- 
ence, as it happened, was quite complimentary. A game was 
played on the stage in which various Edinburgh dignitaries 
were the cards ; but " Miss Jex-Blake " took the trick. 

Her dislike of publicity was great, but she had long since 
hardened herself to endure it in so far as was necessary for 
her work's sake. Beyond that she drew the line absolutely. 
The press rang with her name for a few years, but she steadily 
refused to be interviewed. It was nothing to her that the 
public had not the smallest idea of the more human side 
of her character. " Nothing," she wrote in response to 
many requests, " would induce her to consent to the sale 
of her photograph." Her holidays were spent in absolute 
retirement, and intimate friends will never forget how, on 



THE ROYAL INFIRMARY 35 1 

the first day in the country, the words would rise to her 
lips, 

" The pulse of dew upon the grass kept his within its number, 
And silent shadows from the trees refreshed him like a slumber." 

A memorandum of this period directs that, in case of her 
death, the funeral shall be as simple and inexpensive as 
possible, and that the headstone if headstone there be 
shall bear only her name, the dates, and the words, " Then 
are they glad because they be quiet." 

" Partly you see, I am so tired," she had written half to herself 
and half to Miss Du Pre in February, " not physically or even 
mentally exactly. I could come up to any given exertion of either 
kind for the time being ; but my whole nature is strained and 
wearied. I can get up energy for nothing, can but just get through 
the day's work in the day and long for rest ! 

' Hades must rest us for ages, 
Ere we can glory see.' 

No, my glory is rest ! . . . 

How strange lives are ! Miss Anderson's husband married Oct. 
5th (?), died on Monday, November I2th, love enough to change 
a life for, and it, no, not it, the marriage, ends in 4 months ! " 

It was about this time that her friend Mrs. Unwin died. 
Up to the last she had followed the Edinburgh campaign 
with intense interest and sympathy. S. J.-B. had promised 
that, whatever the claims of her work might be, she would 
pay a last visit to the Yorkshire home in case of " utter 
need " ; but Mrs. Unwin refused to make this plea. Re- 
solutely she bore her own cross : and, with a last message 
of "deepest love and regard," she passed away. 



CHAPTER XIII 
THE ACTION AGAINST THE SENATUS 

MADAM, 

... I never read or heard of such a hard case as yours and 
so peculiar. It might be worth while to seek the advice of a Solicitor 
who would consult counsel to find out whether you and your 
disappointed friends have no case at Law. I would (if it be possible) 
just like to know what the Court of Session would have to say, 
touching not only the arbitrariness, but the gross injustice, if not 
absolute illegality, of the whole affair. You matriculate get 
through with about half of your classes great loss of time money 
disappointment even exasperation or half ruin all incurred : 
and are then summarily brought to made to fairly stick and yet 
no legal remedy ! I can't believe it. I would try and find out, 
but yet, it is an awful prospect. The length of time, and expense 
that would have to be borne, ere any decision could be come to. 
You seem to me like one who took a leap, without seeing from the 
first, 1 where the leap was to land you. For surely, had you foreseen 
all this, you never would have set foot in Edinburgh. . . . 

The tide is coming in and nothing can retard it, nothing worth 
speaking of. And these views will be realised and acted upon some 
day. Depend upon it. 

The day will come when women will sit cheek by jowl with men 
through a six months' course of Anatomy, Physiology, Midwifery, 
etc., etc., right cheerfully, and neither jeering nor sneering there 
nor winks nor any other impertinences singularly misplaced and 
out of time if certain important personages could only see matters 
rightly. Yes, and walk the Hospitals surgical and medical and 
the lying-in Hospital also, the Eye Infirmary, the Cancer one and 
the Consumptive one, and the Lock into the bargain. And then all 
these important obstructives will be dead, buried, rotten forgotten 
and their writings selling at three halfpence per Ib." 

1 " Believe and venture ! as for pledges. 
The gods give none." 



THE ACTION AGAINST THE SENATUS 353 

The above is quoted from the letter of a complete stranger, 
the so-called " man in the street " apparently, and is a 
sample of many that came pouring in upon S. J.-B. during 
those troublous years. " Has the University any right to 
act like this ? " friends kept asking constantly ; and we 
know that more than one of the Professors had advised an 
appeal to a Court of Law. 

Towards the close of 1871, S. J.-B. seems to have consulted 
her brother on the subject, drawing from him the following 
letters : 

" The College, 

Cheltenham. 

Nov. 18. 1871. 
MY DEAR SOPHY, 

I do not think you can gain anything by sueing the Pro- 
fessors or by going to Law with the University in any other shape. 

It may be too late now to persuade, but it would be at all times 
hopeless to compel, a great University to open its doors to ladies. 

I return the Queries and Opinions : and should distrust legal 
opinions that advised further law-suits. 

It is most provoking, and your treatment has been unjust : but 
it comes to my mind to this, When they persecute you in one city, 
flee ye to another. 

You can make better use of your time by getting University 
instruction elsewhere, than by throwing legal pebbles at the University 
gates of Auld Reekie : and life being short you had better gather up 
the net result of your Scotch experience, and go to Zurich or Paris, 
or wherever your own knowledge and judgment lead you. 

I am exceedingly sorry for you ; but I see nothing else to be done, 
so far as I understand the facts. 

It is very tantalizing that the majorities have always been so 
narrow : and that there has been so much to justify sanguine friends 
in their advice. 

I shall be glad to hear your decision, and both Hetty and I are 
very sorry for you. 

Your affect, brother, 

T. W. J.-B." 

" The College, 

Cheltenham, 

Nov. 21. 1871. 
MY DEAR SOPHY, 

There is more to be said for legal action than I knew of : 
for I thought Paris or Zurich degree was legal qualification in 



354 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

England : though of course to go abroad for degree is objection- 
able in several ways, and the language must slightly increase the 
difficulties. 

Still there is nothing to be said for legal action unless it is likely 
to succeed : and of that your Scotch lawyers are the best judges : 
though their expectations hitherto have been more sanguine than 
accurate in your case. 

I am sorry I cannot be of much use, and very sorry the Trades 
Union is so strong and so well organized. 

It must be very annoying, and is certainly a horrible waste of 
time : but half of most people's time is spent in untying the foolish 
knots of blind opponents. 

Hetty joins in love. 

Your affect, brother, 

T. W. J.-B." 

"13 Sussex Square, 
Brighton. 

Jan. 21. 1872. 
MY DEAR SOPHY, 

One line to wish you many happy returns of the day, and 
to tell you that all is going on very well here. . . . 

We were very glad that you crept into such a haven of rest as 
Mrs. Nichol has to offer you : and I am quite sure the strain of so 
much fighting and organizing must be very great. 

It seems hardly possible that you should get on with your own 
Medical education while there is so much polemical business on hand ; 
but if you carry the point for all women, it will be cheaply bought at 
the sacrifice of two or three years of individual training in books 
and bones." 

" When they persecute you in one city, flee ye to another." 
This was advice which S. J.-B. had always kept well in 
mind, though not with regard to Paris and Zurich ; and en- 
quiries as to other British Universities had been diligently 
prosecuted. St. Andrews was the one that most naturally 
suggested itself, " as a comparatively rural University, with- 
out male students of medicine, and yet with the power to 
grant degrees." It is true that the Medical Curriculum at St. 
Andrews was and is very incomplete ; but the deficiency 
might be made good by some teaching-school unable or 
unwilling to grant degrees. Professor Lewis Campbell and 
Mrs. Campbell had taken a deep interest in the project of 



THE ACTION AGAINST THE SENATUS 355 

making their University the Alma Mater of the women 
students ; S. J.-B. had visited them at St. Andrews in the 
autumn of 1871, with Miss Massingberd Mundy 1 ; and there 
are a number of cordial letters witnessing to the genuine 
desire of both the Professor and his wife for the success of 
the scheme. 

Their enthusiasm was not typical of the University, how- 
ever, though Principal Tulloch " seemed friendly in a vague 
way " ; and all hope in this direction had, for the moment, 
to be given up. 

Meanwhile S. J.-B., on behalf of herself and her fellow- 
students, had made a final appeal to the University Court of 
Edinburgh to provide them with the means of completing 
their education, and she had also forwarded to them a farther 
legal opinion from the Lord Advocate and Sheriff Eraser to 
the effect that the University authorities had full power to 
permit the matriculation of women in 1869 ; that the resolu- 
tions then passed amounted to a permission to women to 
" study Medicine " in the University, and that therefore the 
women concerned were entitled to demand the means of 
doing so ; and finally, that if such means were persistently 
refused, the legal mode of redress lay in an Action of 
Declarator. 

On January 8th the University Court resolved that it 
was not in their power to comply with the requirements of 
the women as regarded teaching : the whole question, they 
said, had been " complicated by the introduction of the 
subject of graduation, which is not essential to the completion 
of a medical or other education " : if the ladies would alto- 
gether give up the question of graduation, and be content 
with certificates of proficiency, the Court would try to meet 
their views. 

" They forgot," says S. J.-B., " that though a degree is ' not 
essential ' to a medical education, it is absolutely indispensable to 
any practical use of it, that is to any lawful practice of the medical 
profession." 



1 Miss Massingberd Mundy was one of the junior students who did not 
go on to graduation, but her gaiety and humour made her a real 
acquisition to the little circle in the trying days. 



356 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

She offered, however, to waive the question of graduation, 
pending an authoritative decision as to the powers and duties 
of the University, if arrangements might meanwhile be 
made for the women to continue their education. To this 
the Court agreed. Farther correspondence, however, elicited 
the fact that the Court had no intention of coming to any 
decision with regard to its own powers, and that it did not 
mean to take any active steps in the matter. 

" On the other hand," says S. J.-B., " we had no less authority 
than that of the Lord Advocate of Scotland for believing that we 
were absolutely entitled to what we had so humbly solicited, and 
that a Court of Law would quietly award to us what seemed un- 
attainable by any other means ; we had the very widely spread 
and daily increasing sympathy of the community at large, and 
received constant offers of help from friends of every kind. . . . 
Under these circumstances we did the one thing that remained for 
us to do, we brought an Action of Declarator against the Senatus 
of the University, praying to have it declared that the Senatus 
was bound, in some way or other, to enable us to complete our 
education and to proceed to the medical degree which would entitle 
us to take place on the Medical Register among the legally-qualified 
practitioners of medicine." 

Of course the news of this daring step was forthwith noised 
abroad, and S. J.-B. received a protesting letter from Dr. 
Elizabeth Blackwell, urging her not to waste on an uncertain 
lawsuit, money that might be so much more profitably spent 
in some other way. 

The following is S. J.-B.'s reply : 

" DEAR DR. BLACKWELL, 

I suppose rumour very seldom does report things correctly, 
so I do not wonder that you have been misinformed about the 
action which we are on the point of bringing against the Senatus. 
It is not one for breach of promise (what fun Punch would make of 
it if it were !) but simply an Action of Declarator whereby we pray 
one of the Judges of Session to declare that the Senatus is bound 
to complete our education, according to the decided opinion given 
by the Lord Advocate of Scotland. 

In the brief space of a letter it would be impossible for me to 
submit to you all the facts and grounds on which our intention is 
based, tho' I should be glad to explain them in detail if you were 
on the spot, but you will be glad to hear that not only are the whole 



THE ACTION AGAINST THE SENATUS 357 

of the students here of the same mind as myself on this point, but 
our determination is strengthened by the advice and concurrence of 
some of the wisest heads in Edinburgh, including those of friendly 
Professors. I hope therefore that you will believe that, though you 
find a difficulty at a distance from the field of action in concurring 
in our present step, you would probably do so if all the facts of the 
case were as thoroughly before you as they are before us and our 
counsellors. 

It is just because I find that London friends are so little au courant 
of the facts that I am hoping to give an explanatory lecture when 
in town next month, and I need not say how doubly glad I shall be 
to give every explanation and information to you to whom [all] 
of us medical women owe so much gratitude and respect as our 
pioneer and forerunner. 

Believe me, 

Yours truly, 

S. JEX- BLAKE." 

Now that there was something definite to be done, S. J.-B. 
was in her element once more and the following letters make 
it very clear that her " counsellors " were working con amore. 

" University Club, 
Edinburgh. 

1 8 March, 72. 

DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

Under the dread of bringing disgrace on the whole masculine 
race, I applied myself today during all the time I could command 
to the framing of the great Summons, and I brought it up to a point 
at which I think nothing of importance remains to be added except 
the historical statement and the pleas in law, both of which you 
may take for granted will be made right. If I can get them done 
this evening I'll send them to you. 

I thought as you were in a hurry to see the thing I had better 
let you have what I had done at once, and so I took it to White 
Millar and left it with him to send you. There must be a distinction 
drawn between you and the other ladies who are ready for the first 
professional exam., and the others who are not. So you will please 
note on the margin of the M.S. who those are that occupy these 
respective positions and the exact stage at which theless advanced 
ones have arrived. I must also have the dates and exact terms of 
the several resolutions and letters referred to in the last article, so 
as to make the chronological statement complete and accurate. 
I would like before the thing is finally adjusted to consult all the 
available sources of information on the subject of graduation and 



358 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

the original constitution of the University, and also I think if Bologna 
was our model, as seems to be taken for granted, that it would be 
worth while to communicate with some one there, such as the 
Secretary of the Senatus, if they have one, or the Librarian, to get 
authoritative statistics on the subject. 

I have not heard from the Dean of Faculty yet in reply to my 
inquiry on the point of professional punctilio involved in my under- 
taking the case, but another eminent legal friend whose advice I 
highly value thinks on the whole that I ought not to undertake it. 
This did not prevent me, however, from doing the Summons ! Mean- 
time you needn't mention that I am doing it, in case of my not 
going on with the case, which might lead to unfavourable remarks, 
if it were supposed that I had begun and afterwards backed out of 
it. I'll be very sorry to do so, if that is the Dean's opinion. 
Believe me, 

Yours very truly, 

ALEX. NICOLSON." 

Apparently the decision of the Dean was adverse to Mr. 
Nicolson, for the case was taken up, and very ably argued, 
by Sheriff Eraser and Mr. M'Laren (afterwards Lord M'Laren), 
who had been junior counsel in the libel case. 

" I am quite certain," writes Mr. Fraser to S. J.-B., " that upon 
a more thorough investigation it will be found that women did 
attend the Universities and graduated. . . . When you are up in 
London just now perhaps you would refer to some of the books in 
the British Museum, mentioned by Watts, which are not in the 
Advocates' Library. You need not trouble yourself with the Uni- 
versity of Edinburgh, as I have gone over the whole Records of the 
Council and of the Professors since the institution of the University, 
and I cannot find a single case of a woman being a student. The 
same I fear v.ill be the result of an examination of the records of 
the other universities. This was natural, for, until recently, both 
the law and the social customs of Scotland, like those of other 
barbarous countries, regarded women as nothing else but domestic 
drudges and field hands." 

It was useless, of course, to suggest the British Museum. 
S. J.-B. had long since exhausted that mine. And she had 
no great faith in the information to be derived from corre- 
spondence with foreign secretaries and librarians. She had 
worked that vein too. It still remained to send an emissary 
to .examine the archives of the Italian Universities at first 
hand, and this was what she now resolved to do. Someone had 



THE ACTION AGAINST THE SENATUS 359 

commended to her interest about this time an able and well- 
educated young lady whose health was causing her friends 
some anxiety, and, after watching and tending her for some 
time S. J.-B. despatched her on the mission, duly armed 
with the following dossier : 

" i. At each University get access, if possible, to the official 
archives and lists of students, and make a complete list of every 
woman who studied there, with date, Faculty, and other particulars. 

2. If you cannot get access yourself, get the lists made by some 
official, and, if possible, compare it with originals or other authorities. 

3. If possible get the Secretary or Librarian, or some Professor 
to attest the list with his signature, as truly extracted from the 
records. 

4. Pay any necessary fees, having as far as possible arranged for 
these beforehand. 

5. Make copies in one book of every list obtained, of name and 
address of each person making or attesting such lists, and of all 
additional information likely to be of value. 

6. Send off attested lists to me in registered letters as soon as 
obtained, marking in your M.S. book the exact duplicate in case of 
loss and sending a separate letter to Miss P. to announce dispatch. 

7. Do not let your own M.S. book out of your hands for any 
purpose. 

8. Send all lists on foolscap and not on foreign paper." 

The ambassador seems to have carried through her mission 
most efficiently, and an imposing array of names was the 
result. At any rate that vein was now worked out. 

In the meantime " the grea't Summons " was duly delivered, 
and on March 27th the Senatus met to consider what action 
they should take with regard to it. We get the following 
informal account of what took place from Miss Pechey : 

" I could not get particulars of the Senatus meeting . . . till too 
late to write last night, but it appears that it was first moved to 
defend the action ; then Fleeming Jenkin proposed that an attempt 
should be made to have an amicable lawsuit. This was negatived 
by 17 to 10, and then the other motion not to defend the action 
being put against the first, was negatived by 22 to 5. Many of our 
friends voted to defend, Wilson amongst others. He says he feels 
sure that the thing will never be fairly settled without a legal decision. 
I saw him today in his office. He is very anxious you should get 
some member to ask a question when the Parliamentary grant is 



360 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

being arranged. 1 He told me the enemy were dreadfully angry at 
the suit, from which he concluded that our Summons is well drawn 
up." 

" This was the great argument for assenting to the corporate 
defence," writes Professor Masson, " i.e. that the Senatus could not 
possibly let judgment go by default, which would yield all your 
demands (compulsion of Professors, etc.) and yet not really settle the 
thing, inasmuch as the Professors or anyone might afterwards reopen 
the whole judgment. On the same ground it is that friends don't seem 
to want to stir individually. They say the defence is corporately 
by the Senatus and everybody will understand that, and hence that 
individual secession is superfluous. Tait, however, said he would 
consult his lawyer, and Craufurd and Jenkin meditated something 
of the same." 

On the other hand, six members of the Senatus anxious 
though they well might be to have the weary question settled 
one way or the other simply could not allow the resolution 
to pass without protest, and the following minute is duly 
recorded in the books of the University : 

" We dissent from and protest against the resolution of the Senatus 
of March 27, 1872, to undertake the defence of the action. This we 
do for the following reasons : (i.) Because we see no just cause for 
opposing the admission of women to the study and practice of 
medicine ; but, on the contrary, consider that women who have 
honourably marked out such a course of life for themselves, ought to 
be forwarded and aided in their laudable endeavour as much as 
possible, by all who have the means, and especially by those having 
authority in any University or other institution for education ; (2.) 
Because, in particular, we feel such aid and encouragement, rather 
than opposition and discouragement, to be due from us to those 
women who have enrolled themselves in the University of Edinburgh, 
and we entirely concur, with respect to them, in the desire expressed 
by Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, the Rector of the University, that 
they should obtain what they ask namely, a complete medical 
education, crowned by a degree ; (3.) Because we have seen no 
sufficient reason to doubt the legal and constitutional powers of 
our University to make arrangements that would be perfectly 
adequate for the purpose, and we consider the public questioning of 



1 S. J.-B. appealed to Sir Robert Anstruther ; and there is a business- 
like note from Lady Anstruther, asking for a very brief summary of all 
the main events, just the thing that only S. J.-B. could supply. 

The matter was brought forward in Aug. 1872, on Sir Robert An- 
struther's behalf, by Sir D. Wedderburn, see below. 



THE ACTION AGAINST THE SENATUS 361 

such powers, in present circumstances, by the University itself, or 
any of its component bodies, unnecessary, impolitic, and capable of 
being construed as a surrender of permanent rights and privileges 
of the University, in order to evade a temporary difficulty ; (4.) 
Because, without pronouncing an opinion on the question now raised, 
as to the legal rights which the pursuers have acquired by matricula- 
tion in the University, admission already to certain examinations, 
or otherwise, to demand from the University continued medical 
instruction and the degree on due qualification, we yet believe that 
they have thereby, and by the general tenor of the proceedings, both 
of the Senatus and of the University Court in their case hitherto, 
acquired a moral right, and created a public expectation, which the 
University is bound to meet by the full exercise of its powers in their 
behalf, even should it be with some trouble ; (5.) Because, with 
these convictions, and notwithstanding our utmost respect for those 
of our colleagues from whom we may have the misfortune to differ 
on the subject, we should individually feel ashamed of appearing 
as defenders in such an action, and should account any such public 
appearance by us in the character of opponents to women desiring 
to enter an honoured and useful profession, a matter to our discredit." 

The following are the names of the six * Professors who 
felt bound thus to stand out against the arguments of their 
colleagues . 

John Hughes Bennett, M.D., Professor of the Institutes 

of Medicine, 
David Masson, M.A., Professor of Rhetoric and English 

Literature, 

Henry Calderwood, LL.D., Professor of Moral Philosophy, 
James Lorimer, M.A., Professor of Public Law, 
Archibald H. Charteris, D.D., Professor of Biblical Criti- 
cism and Biblical Antiquities, 

William Ballantyne Hodgson, LL.D., 2 Professor of Politi- 
cal Economy. 

1 In addition to these six, Professor Fleeming Jenkin and Professor 
Cosmo limes removed their names from the list of defenders. 

"Professor Hodgson was a recent addition to the professorial staff, and 
a great asset to the women's cause. 



CHAPTER XIV 
THE LORD ORDINARY'S JUDGMENT 

" DID you advertise your lecture in the Lancet ? I expect you will 
have a lot of blackguardly doctors there in consequence. Don't 
have any libel cases, and don't be hard on the students. They're 
very bad, but they're not so bad as the Professors. 1 I know you are 
very busy writing and so on, and that there would be plenty of 
copying for me to do if only I were at hand. Don't you want me 
to bully and be bullied by ? 

How I wish I could be in the gallery to make faces at you and 
throw peas ! " 

An admirable and characteristic letter, this, from Miss 
Pechey. Was a bracing message of warning and sym- 
pathy to a senior and chum ever more tactfully and lightly 
delivered ? 

On April 25th, after some days in the country, S. J.-B. went 
to London and was met by Miss Du Pre and Miss M'Laren, 
who " heard and finally polished up the lecture," which was 
delivered the following day at St. George's Hall in the presence 
of a large and curiously assorted audience. The Earl of 
Shaftesbury, who occupied the chair, was supported by 
Professor Lewis Campbell, Rev. Dr. Martineau, Mrs. Garrett 
Anderson, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the Dowager Countess 
of Buchan, and other well-known folk, and among the general 
public were a number of girlhood's friends, including Miss 
Ada Benson, Miss Miranda Hill, and many " modern women," 
with a sprinkling of Norfolk cousins. In the course of his 

1 As a matter of fact a number of students came unasked to serve 
as stewards. 



THE LORD ORDINARY'S JUDGMENT 363 

address the Chairman made a shrewd remark, of which time 
has proved the truth : 

" The argument that women were not wanted in the medical 
profession struck him as very singular. He was old enough to 
remember when railways and electric telegraphs were not wanted 
for the simple reason that they were not known. When they became 
known and tried, we couid not do without them, and in all probability 
it would be the same with reference to ladies in the medical pro- 
fession." 

In many ways the lecture was a success, and it was largely 
quoted and referred to in the press ; but, for the ordinary 
hearer, it was overloaded with statistics, and with a view 
to that ever-possible action for libel the lecturer kept herself 
too well in hand. It is amusing to find The Christian World 
hinting a regret that she " had not really worked herself up 
into a passion " in narrating the injustice and vexations to 
which she had been exposed. 

On the other hand, Mrs. Priscilla Bright M'Laren, an 
unbiassed expert, expressed the wish that the lecture should 
be delivered throughout the length and breadth of the land. 
The publication of a pamphlet, she said, would not have the 
same effect, because most people never have their sympathies 
thoroughly roused unless they come face to face with the 
person who has been persecuted. " If you could be seen 
and heard" she wrote, " you would produce a wonderful 
effect in favour of the cause you have at heart." 

S. J.-B. had serious thoughts of carrying out this suggestion, 
but in the interests of her own health one is glad to record 
that wiser counsels prevailed. 

" Thank you very, very much, darling, for your telegram," writes 
Mrs. Jex-Blake, the day after the lecture. " I thought if you 
knew how anxious I had been the last few hours, you would send 
one, but I did not at all expect it." 

" I have not known where to direct to keep adding my rejoicing at 
the many accounts of the success of your lecture. Well, I am very 
very glad foi you and with you, and I pray things may somehow take 
a fresh start. How very nice of some medical students to come and 
officiate. I wish Professor Masson could have been there." 

" I am very glad to think of you as once more snug at home and 
I hope with less work in view and some anxieties abated. ... I 



364 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

am very glad indeed you have given up going about lecturing. . . . 
Tom, too, thinks you very wise to give it up : he was struck with 
your looking so worn, and very vexed to see you so." 

It is interesting to note that S. J.-B. had taken an invalid 
friend home with her to recruit ! At the same time she is 
writing to a protegee : 

" I have seen Dr. Blackwell, and think she is rather disposed to 
give you the work. ... I think you should go in your bonnet, and 
look sage, and not seem too eager for the work, and put a good price 
on yourself, say 2 a week, or, oh, you would accept 40 for the 
6 months, etc. And be very confident you can do it all, if she asks 
you to call on her." 

This is really the most worldly letter that S. J.-B. ever 
wrote ! 

In all these later happenings, one misses the name of Mrs. 
Butler, who had stood by S. J.-B. so enthusiastically in the 
day of small things. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Butler was 
now fully embarked on her own heroic campaign, and both 
Mrs. Garrett Anderson and S. J.-B. had failed to give her 
their support. Thinking differently from each other on many 
points, characterised indeed by a fundamentally different 
way of looking at life, the two medical women alike realized 
the complications of modern civilization too profoundly to 
add the stupendous question that occupied Mrs. Butler to a 
programme that was already involved and difficult enough. 
Mrs. Butler felt their attitude keenly, and it was evidently 
with mingled feelings that she received a letter from Miss 
Pechey about this time, asking the privilege of adding her 
name and that of Canon Butler to the ever-growing Committee. 

" My dear Miss Pechey," she writes, " You are welcome to use 
my own and my husband's names if you think they will do your 
cause any good. We cannot conceive that they would, and, on 
that ground alone, we should be as glad that you should not use 
them. It had better be left to Miss Jex-Blake's judgment. 

" All the world knows that we are on opposite sides on one of the 
most vital questions of the day, and that the Medical ladies have 
no sympathy with the efforts being made to get rid of the scandal 
of a great State system of legalised Prostitution, and therefore it 



THE LORD ORDINARY'S JUDGMENT 365 

appears to Mr. Butler and me an inconsistency that our names 
should appear in any such adverse connexion, deeply as we desire 
the prosperity and success of the medical woman movement. ..." 

" Dear Mrs. Butler," writes S. J.-B. in reply. " As Miss Pechey 
tells me that you leave me to decide whether or no to place on our 
Committee your name and Mr. Butler's, I write to say that I shall 
most gladly avail myself of your permission so to use your names. 

I am glad to say that our Committee is made up of over a thousand 
friends who not only differ widely on the point to which you refer, 
but among whom differences no doubt exist on almost every other 
question, social, political and religious. 

As we cannot hope that even the most conscientious among us 
will always agree on matters of judgment, I am sure that the only 
wise rule is to keep each question distinct by itself, and to welcome 
for it the support of all who care for its success, whether or no they 
agree on other points. 

With kind regards to Mr. Butler, believe me, 

Yours truly, 

S. JEX-BLAKE." 

The breach was never quite healed. When people care 
more for great causes than for personal pleasure and satis- 
faction, the loss of a friend must sometimes be taken as part 
of the day's work. Sunt lachrymae rerum. 

Meanwhile the work of propaganda was going on steadily, 
and, as S. J.-B. had given up the idea of lecturing in the great 
towns, she proceeded, as the next best thing, to publish her 
lecture, in conjunction with her historical researches on the 
subject of Medical Women, in the form of a small volume. 

Just as she was seeing this through the press, news came 
of the illness of her Mother, who was visiting the cousins at 
Bylaugh Park. 

" June 17. 

DARLING MOTHER, 

I am very sorry to hear that you have had such an attack 
again. I should be really unhappy if I did not believe and trust 
in you that you would telegraph for me if you at all wished for me, 
or if you felt really seriously ill. Am I right in so trusting you ? 

I am sure they will take all the care they can of you, and I hope 
you will be good and wise enough to eat all you can, broth at first, 
and then as much meat and vegetables as possible and lots of 
strawberries ! are they ripe yet at Bylaugh ? 



366 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

You know that I am doing Dispensary work now, and have several 
patients of all kinds to look after, but I envy the doctor that has 
my old lady instead of me. 

If you decide against going to Wales, suppose you come up here 
straight from Norfolk, and we have a quiet month quite alone 
together ? somewhere in the Highlands if I have to give up 
Brighton. 

Of course I shall send you your own copy of my new book myself, 
but Miss Pechey will send any quantity more that you may order 
for giving away, etc. 

How good of dear old Auntie to write ! 

Yours lovingly, 

SOPH." 

The illness, however, rapidly assumed a dangerous character,, 
and S. J.-B. was telegraphed for next day. 

"Luckily was up," she says [she had been ill herself], "and 
received the telegram by 9.50 a.m. Got things packed and off by 
10.25 train. Thunder and lightning whole way up. Reached 
Peterbro about 6.30, Lynn 9.15. Got a carriage and drove to 
Swaffham . . . thence to Bylaugh, arriving at 2.45 a.m. Crept up 
to Mother's room, she, ' My darling ! ' She had been nervous and 
restless, but slept, holding my hand. 

Oh, the horror of seeing her all shrunk together in bed, hardly 
articulate, I thought dying. 

And had been very nearly ..." 

As usual when life was doing its worst, there follow a few 
blank pages in the diary, pages that were to be filled in some 
day ! "I am so glad," wrote Miss Jane Cubitt from Fritton, 
Miss Cubitt was the " sensible cousin " of the childhood, who 
could do equations " I am so glad that you have arrived 
at Bylaugh. I feel now that all that can be done will be 
done." And fortunately on this occasion recovery came more 
rapidly than the doctors had thought possible. 

S. J.-B. returned to Edinburgh on the 8th July, not a 
moment too soon. She was called out to a case the evening 
of her arrival having travelled north by day and she 
proceeded forthwith to finish seeing her book through the 
press. Law business, too, was urgently claiming her return. 
On Wednesday, the 1 7th July, the historic lawsuit came on. 
before Lord Gifford. 



THE LORD ORDINARY'S JUDGMENT 367 

It must be understood that this lawsuit, though of almost 
infinite importance to the women, was in no way a dramatic 
affair like the last. In the nature of the case it afforded no 
sensations to provincial papers. An Action of Declarator is 
"for a decree defining and declaring the right of the pursuer," * 
and the evidence in Court was given by Counsel only. 

The women repeated in effect the requests they had so 
often made to the University, viz. that the Professors should 
either receive them as members of their classes, or else appoint 
(or recognize) other lecturers who would. The defence 
consisted substantially of two pleas : I. that all parties are 
not called (see below) ; and 2. that the Senatus has not the 
power to do what it is asked to do ; in other words, (a) that 
the University existed for men only, and, (b) that the Univer- 
sity authorities in making this experiment, had never intended 
to admit women to graduation. If they did so intend, the 
intention was ultra vires ; and indeed they probably went 
beyond their powers when in 1869 they framed regulations 
admitting women to share their privileges at all. 

The hearing of the case lasted two days, and it was fully 
reported in the Scottish daily papers of July i8th and ipth. 
Much of it, of course, consisted of sheer technical detail that 
has long since lost interest, but Lord Gifford's judgment 
delivered eight or nine days after the hearing of Counsel was 
characterized by a grip of the whole situation and enlivened 
by a warmth of human interest that make it a landmark in 
the history, not only of medical women, but of the whole 
Feminist movement. If he allowed his sympathy with the 
pursuers to appear rather too clearly, this was surely a fault 
that, in view of all the circumstances, may well be reckoned 
to him for righteousness. The gist of the judgment is con- 
tained in the following sentences : 

" The Lord Ordinary finds that, according to the existing constitu- 
tion and regulations of the said University of Edinburgh, the pursuers 
are entitled to be admitted to the study of medicine in the said 
University, and that they are entitled to all the rights and privileges 
of lawful students in the said University, subject only to the conditions 
specified and contained in the said regulations of I2th November 

*See S. J.-B.'s letter to Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, pp. 356-7. 



368 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

1869 : Finds that the pursuers, on completing the prescribed studies, 
and on compliance with all the existing regulations of the University 
preliminary to degrees, are entitled to proceed to examination for 
degrees in manner prescribed by the regulations of the University 
of Edinburgh." 

In the " Note," the Lord Ordinary discusses the case in 
detail : 

" It is not easy to over-estimate the importance of the questions 
involved in the present action. The decision may affect, in various 
ways, not only the interests of the pursuers, and of all who are 
similarly situated, but also the future welfare of the University, and 
indirectly the well-being of the community at large who are interested 
in securing the services of thoroughly educated and accomplished 
medical practitioners. 

The Lord Ordinary has endeavoured to approach the consideration 
of the questions dispassionately, and free from all prejudices or 
prepossessions. He has also endeavoured to keep in view that his 
functions are merely judicial and not legislative, and that his duty 
is simply to declare and apply the law as it at present stands, and 
in no way to endeavour to amend it, however strong his convictions 
of what the law ought to be. . . . 

The importance of the question to the present pursuers, and to all 
ladies who, like them, may contemplate the practice of medicine as 
a profession, lies in this, that, by the piovisions of the Medical Act 
of 1858 no one is entitled to be registered as a medical practitioner 
without possessing a medical degree from one or other of the univer- 
sities of the United Kingdom, or a licence equivalent thereto from 
certain established medical bodies mentioned in the Act. A 
foreign or colonial degree is not available, and does not entitle to 
registration unless the holder thereof has been in practice in Great 
Britain previous to October 1858. Unless the pursuers, therefore, 
succeed in obtaining degrees, they will be practically excluded from 
the profession of medicine, for they are not in a position to demand 
licences from any of the authorised medical bodies, and it can 
scarcely be expected that they will prosecute their medical studies 
merely in order to be hereafter classed with empirics, herbalists or 
medical botanists, or with those who, in common language, are 
denominated quacks. Without legal registration under the Medical 
Act of 1858, the pursuers would be denied all right to recover fees ; 
they would be incapable of holding any medical appointment ; and 
they would be subject to very serious penalties if they so much as 
attempted to assume the name or title of medical practitioners. 

It is a fact, whatever may be its effect in law, that no University 
in Great Britain has ever yet granted a degree to a lady. The 



THE LORD ORDINARY'S JUDGMENT 369 

Medical Register of Great Britain only contains the name of two 
female practitioners Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and Dr. Garrett 
Anderson. Dr. Blackwell obtained her degree in America, and, 
being in practice in Great Britain before 1858, she obtained regis- 
tration in virtue of the exception in the Act. Dr. Garrett Anderson 
obtained a licence from the Apothecaries' Hall, London, and is 
registered as such ; but, since her admission, regulations have been 
made which prevent any other lady from hereafter obtaining a 
licence from the Apothecaries' Hall. Accordingly the course pursued 
by Dr. Blackwell and Dr. Anderson is not open to any of the pursuers, 
and their only hope of being allowed to practise medicine ill Great 
Britain rests upon their being able to obtain a degree from one or 
other of the Universities. 

Practically, therefore, the questions are now raised for the first time, 
Can a lady obtain a medical degree ? and, Is any lady to be allowed to 
practise in Great Britain ? " 

The Lord Ordinary then discussed the case for the defenders, 
point by point : The first plea in law was the technical 
plea that " all parties are not called," or, in other words, 
that the action should have been brought, not against the 
Senatus and Chancellor, but against the University as a 
whole. 

This question, said the Lord Ordinary, should have been 
raised before the record was closed, and settled in limine. 
As a matter of fact, however, it was of little moment, as 
the Senatus and Chancellor were the only parties complained 
of, it being assumed that the University as a whole was 
ready and willing to do its duty as soon as such duty was 
clearly defined. The Chancellor, indeed, had expressed this 
willingness so far as he individually was concerned, and, 
strictly speaking, he need not have been called as a party. 

From the principle on which this preliminary plea was 
repelled, it followed that there was in the present action no 
attempt to impugn in the slightest degree the existing consti- 
tution of the University. Its existing regulations and ordi- 
nances must be taken as right, and the Senatus must simply 
be called upon to give effect to these as they stood. 

The Lord Ordinary proceeded to make one or two observa- 
tions of a general nature. He was clearly of opinion that, 
by the law of Scotland, there was no inherent illegality in 

2A 



370 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

women prosecuting the science of medicine, using the word 
in its largest sense, or in their engaging in the practice of 
medicine as a profession. . . . Indeed some branches of the 
profession were peculiarly appropriate to women and peculiarly 
inappropriate to men. For instance, in obstetric practice 
and in numerous diseases of women, a male practitioner was 
singularly out of place, and nothing but the deadening effect 
of habit would ever reconcile the community to that anomaly 
both in name and in reality, " a man-midwife." 

Keeping these preliminary observations in view, the Lord 
Ordinary proceeded to consider the constitution and regula- 
tions of the University of Edinburgh so far as they related 
to women : 

I. It had been broadly maintained by the Counsel for the 
Senatus, in a very powerful and able speech, that the Univer- 
sity of Edinburgh was founded and existed for males alone. 

If this proposition were well founded, there was, of course, 
an end of the whole case. The Lord Ordinary, however, had 
felt himself quite unable to affirm this proposition, but had 
come ultimately, without any hesitation at all, to the con- 
clusion that there was no foundation for this first and general 
contention of the defenders. 

a. The charter gave no countenance to this supposition. 
The masculine noun or pronoun was used merely in conformity 
with ordinary brevity and simplicity of expression. 

b. The fact that the Universities of Scotland were founded 
to a great extent upon the model of Bologna, etc., seemed 
to show that as women were admitted to the Italian Uni- 
versities there could have been no original intention to 
exclude them from those founded in Scotland. 

c. It was true that there was no recorded instance of a 
woman having taken her degree in Scotland, and this was 
an argument of some weight, perhaps considerable weight. 
If, however, the women had the right originally, that right 
would not be lost by the mere fact of non-usage. The right 
in their case was res merae facultatis, like a man's right to 
build upon his own ground, a right that is not lost though 
no building be erected for hundreds or thousands of years. 
To extinguish such a right there must be a contrary usage 



THE LORD ORDINARY'S JUDGMENT 371 

a possession inconsistent with the exercise of the right 
and that did not exist in the present case. 

d. If there was no express exclusion of women and nothing 
necessarily leading to their exclusion, it seemed fair to fall 
back upon the inherent legality and appropriateness of the 
study and practice of medicine by women, and to infer that 
a medical school founded in the University could not have 
as one of its conditions the exclusion of the female sex. 

e. Passing from such general considerations, the Lord 
Ordinary considered it quite conclusive of the whole question 
that, by regulations lawfully enacted by competent and 
sufficient authority, provision had actually been made for 
the admission of women to the study of medicine in the Uni- 
versity of Edinburgh, and that actually detailed regulations 
had been made regulating their studies and examinations. 

II. The Lord Ordinary was of opinion that the "regulations 
for the education of women in Medicine in the University " 
of Edinburgh, enacted by the University Court of loth 
November, 1869, and approved of by the Chancellor on I2th 
November, 1869, were valid and binding in every respect, 
and formed an integral part of the constitution and regula- 
tions of the University as it at present existed. At the 
debate it was felt on both sides that these regulations formed 
almost the turning-point in the case, and the counsel for the 
Senatus, sorely pressed by them, had boldly challenged their 
legality, maintained that they were ultra vires of the University 
Court to enact, and had asked the Lord Ordinary to treat 
them as a nullity. Here again the Lord Ordinary thought 
the position taken by the Senatus was absolutely untenable. 

The regulations in question were solemnly, after much 
discussion, after long consideration, and after due communi- 
cation with the whole governing bodies of the University, 
enacted by the University Court, a body which had very 
large and almost legislative powers. The regulations were 
enacted with all the required statutory requisites. " Due 
communication " was had with the Senatus. The matter 
was submitted to and was duly considered by the University 
Council, and the regulations received the final sanction and 
approval of the Chancellor. The Senatus, the University 



372 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Court and the University Council had all the benefit of the 
very highest legal skill and experience. Most eminent 
lawyers were members of all these bodies ; and the Chancellor 
who put the seal of his approbation, and sanction to the 
regulations held with universal acceptance the very highest 
judicial office in Scotland. ... So satisfied had the Senatus 
been of the validity of the regulations, that they had actually 
applied to the enacting power that is, to the University 
Court to rescind them. The University Court had refused 
to rescind the regulations and they still stood part of the 
law of the University. 

III. The Lord Ordinary was of opinion that the pursuers 
were entitled in substance to the declaratory decree which 
they demanded in the present action. . . . 

The right to medical graduation was really at the foundation 
of the whole of the present dispute. If the ladies had been 
content to study as mere amateurs as mere dilettanti it 
rather appeared that no question would ever have been 
raised. But their demand for degrees, and the announcement 
of their intention to practise as physicians, had aroused a 
jealousy which the Lord Ordinary was very unwillingly 
obliged to characterize as unworthy, and hence this strife. 

The Lord Ordinary was of opinion, without any doubt at 
all that the proposal to withhold from successful or fully 
accomplished female students the regular degrees, and to give 
them instead mere certificates of proficiency was incompetent 
as well as unjust. The proposal was not unnaturally stigma- 
tized by the pursuers as " a mere mockery." 

IV. All this, of course, had reference to the declaratory 
conclusions. Beyond that the Lord Ordinary could give no 
help. The first petitory conclusion asked that the Professors 
be directed to admit women to their ordinary classes ; but 
this, as Lord Gifford pointed out, was more than the Senatus 
had power to do, and the University Court could only do it 
by altering regulations which the present judgment had 
assumed to be right. The University Court, however, had 
undoubted power to recognize extra-academical teachers ; 
and as teachers of unquestionable standing and ability were 
ready to give the pursuers instruction in separate classes 



THE LORD ORDINARY'S JUDGMENT 373 

as, moreover, the University had only been held back by a 
doubt as to its own powers the Lord Ordinary hoped that 
this solution would terminate the unfortunate controversy 
which had raged so long. 

S. J.-B. records the result very briefly in her diary : 

" Friday, July 26th. Lord Gifford's judgment. Affirms declara- 
tory conclusions, i.e. full rights, denies petitory conclusions, i.e. 
says action so framed that he could not make order on Senatus. 

Gloria tibi, Domine I 

Substantially the whole cause won for all women, I believe. 

His note too good to be easily set aside. May be fresh delay 
hardly defeat." 

In any case it was a great and inspiring judgment, almost 
enough to atone to S. J.-B. at the moment for all she had 
come through ; for it must not be forgotten that the epoch- 
making enactments of November 1869, on which almost 
everything turned, had been won by her own bow and spear, 
practically before any other woman student had appeared 
upon the scene. 1 Well might she cry, " Gloria tibi, Domine ! " 

And within a few days a great paean of rejoicing rang out 
over the land, rejoicing that was to spread over the whole 
civilized world. Once more the postman was a delightful 
visitant. Indeed, as one reads the letters, one is fain to 
retract the dictum that this lawsuit was in any way devoid of 
dramatic interest. 

The telegraph boy came first, with a characteristic message 
from Mrs. Kingsley : 

" A thousand congratulations. How is R.C." 

" Eileanach, 

Inverness. 

Tulv ^1/72. 

DEAR Miss BLAKE, 

A paragraph in the Daily Telegraph of the 3oth made me 
surprise sitters-by, by exclaiming ' Thank God,' . . . 

It is almost too good news to be true, although those not versed 
in legal quibbles felt that your claim was both legal and equitable, 
and must, in due time, be conceded. Yet, I would thankfully learn 

1 See p. 260. 



374 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

that the case is ended, and that there is to be no appeal to keep it 
open longer. 

I mean to be in Edinr. (Cockburn Hotel) on the 8th August, and 
will that day try to see and congratulate you on the blessed determi- 
nation you have shown, all along, not to be put down by mere 
brute, unmanly force, but to compel justice to be done. 

I am grieved that this should have cost you and your friends 
such shameful trouble and expense, but know, that this loss to you, 
will be the cause of myriads of dear women thanking God for having 
won a victory that will do more for their welfare and happi- 
ness, temporal and spiritual, than is now perceived but by a 
very few. . . . 

May God be with you and your friends, and speedily fill the land 
with true women like you, so that no woman may need to keep 
secret for an instant a single pain, because she can only tell it to men. 

Very sincerely yours, 

J. MACKENZIE, M.D., 
Provost." 

" Wednesday, July 31. 
DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

Will you allow me to add my hearty congratulations to those 
with which I doubt not you are now being overwhelmed, on the 
success of your brave and patient conflict with prejudice and in- 
justice ? I think the question is now practically settled. 

Thanks for your kind letter I am very glad you liked St. Andrews. 
Believe me with much respect, 

Yours very sincerely, 

A. K. H. BOYD." 

The letter that follows is from one who was to become an 
invaluable champion. 

" 1 6 Wimpole Street. 

July 27. 
DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

Allow me to congratulate you most heartily on the decision 
of Lord Gifford, which establishes the rights of the lady students at 
Edinburgh. 

I will do what I can to get your interesting little book noticed in 
the Lancet. 

I do hope that the Conservative party in the profession will now 
have the sense to give way with a good grace. 
Believe me, dear Miss J ex-Blake, 

Yours very truly, 

FRANCIS ED. ANSTIE." 



THE LORD ORDINARY'S JUDGMENT 375 

The next is in the shaky handwriting of an invalid : 

" MY DARLING, 

I was so delighted t6 have your letter with the grand news. 
I had not dared expect anything so good. From my heart I thank 
God and rejoice. I feel so comfortably well, no aches or pains 
whatever. May God bless and prosper my darling. 

YOUR LOVING MOTHER. 

Shall I give a copy to Nurse of the book when we part ? " 

" Riffelberg. 

July 3oth. 1872. 
MY DEAR SOPHY, 

I am delighted to see in Times of 27th, just arrived, that 
Lord Gifford has given a judgment entirely in favour of yourself and 
the other lady students. I congratulate you heartily and only hope 
it is final. 

I am here 8,400 ft. above the sea, having found it impossible to 
get fresh in England, . . . 

I hope your legal perils are 'oVer ; and, though one has regretted 
that so much legal work prevented your own medical start, it has 
been well worth all you have gone through, or yet may go through, 
to open the Profession thoroughly to women. 

As soon as you have completed your training, you have in my 
opinion nothing but success before you : and, within 12 months of 
settling in London as a properly qualified Physician, you will find 
it easy to make ^2000 a year, and impossible to avoid doing a very 
large amount of good in making it. ... 

Your affectionate brother, 

T. W. J.-B." 

It was on the occasion of this visit to Switzerland that 
Mr. Jex-Blake made the acquaintance of Miss Agnes M'Laren 
on the top of the Eggishorn ! It chanced one day that 
he ran down from the summit to assist a fragile little lady 
up the last steep climb, and, in the course of subsequent 
conversation, lent her a guide-book, in which, to her great 
surprise, she found the familiar name of Jex-Blake. 

So the Eggishorn heard all about it. 

Yes, friends were kind, and more than kind ; but, as before, 
the " man in the street " rejoices one's heart : 

" Glasgow, soth July, 1872. 
DEAR LADY, 

I beg respectfully to convey my sincere thanks to you for the 
gallant stand which you have made against those parties whom I 



376 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

may term Medical Monopolists, and to express my delight at the 
success which have attended your efforts. 

Your address and ability in thwarting the selfish purposes of said 
parties have endeared you to every liberty loving individual in the 
civilised world, and I sincerely hope you will long be spared to 
benefit suffering humanity by your experience and knowledge 
knowledge which you have pursued under such tremendous diffi- 
culties, but the possession of which cannot fail eventually to raise 
you to the very pinacle of your proffession. 

I am, 

Yours very respectfully, ..." 

The following lines, written and sent to S. J.-B. a fe\r 
months later by a well-known Edinburgh citizen, may be 
taken as a sample of much clever and spirited doggerel on 
both sides of the question : 

" I do rejoice, Miss Jex, 
The gods have heard your Prex, 
To vindicate your Sex, 
By passing a new Lex, 
Though that does sadly vex 
Professor C., senex, 
Who plays the part of Rex, 
But may become an Ex, 
Because he won't annex 
The females to his Grex." 



CHAPTER XV 

. Y ' ' 

PAYING THE PRICE 

ALL through that autumn S. J.-B.'s mind must have been 
simply seething with the manifold interests that claimed her 
attention. 

" If anybody ever deserved a rest, you do," writes Miss Stevenson, 
" and I most earnestly hope you will take a thorough one. I do 
not think any of us are able fully to realize the importance of Lord 
Gifford's decision to all men and women in all time coming." 

"I am truly glad that something is definitely settled. at last," 
writes Miss Bovell from Paris, " and not least for your sake. I do 
trust you may have much less worry in future, though I fear the 
' separate classes ' will still prove a source of trouble. Perhaps 
some time hence the British Medical Profession, as well as the British 
Public, may be sufficiently advanced to throw aside the unscientific 
scruples which happily appear to have no existence here. . . . 

I suppose you will be going in for your Professional in October ? 
I wish you all possible honours. I trust your mind is now suffi- 
ciently at ease for you to work at books, but you will take a holiday 
in the country first, will you not ? " 

The difficulty of arranging classes was so great that a good 
many of the students had scattered for the summer months. 
Mrs. Chaplin Ayrton, as well as Miss Bovell, was in Paris ; 
Miss Massingberd Mundy and Miss Dahms had gone to Dr. 
Lucy Sewall at Boston, and Miss Pechey was working at the 
Lying-in Hospital in Endell Street. 

" Oh, Lucy, I'm so tired of it all ! " S. J.-B. had written to her 
friend a month or two before this. " When those children went to 
you a fortnight ago, I did so wish I could have gone and been 
rested and nursed for a few months ! 



378 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

But I'm sure you will see how utterly without choice I am, that 
I must stay at my post as long as I can stand. 

But I am getting more and more doubtful whether I myself shall 
ever finish my education. I think when once the fight is won, I 
shall creep away into some wood and lie and sleep for a year. 

However all that is beside the question." 

A letter from Miss Pechey written in September takes 
a sterner tone than is her wont. After reporting about her 
work at Endell Street, she goes on : 

" You have never told me how you are getting on with your 
exam, subjects ; such silence is very ominous, and I'm afraid you 
haven't been doing anything at them. You really must, if you 
intend to go up in October, for it is by no means child's play getting 
up three such different subjects, and it would be simply awful if you 
went up and didn't pass. ..." 

Here the writer has obviously dried the ink, and sat looking 
at the space that remained, appalled, we may suppose, by 
the contingency she has called up. 

" Don't you like me to lecture you ? " she concludes finally, 
and passes on to another subject. 

There certainly were not many people who dared to ' lecture ' 
S. J.-B. The mingled love and fear with which her juniors 
(and not her juniors only) regarded her scarcely comes out 
in the correspondence, though one gets more than a glimpse 
of it in the following letter from one of the two who went 
to Boston, the humourist and enfant gdtde of the little circle : 

" DEAR Miss PECHEY, 

I write to you for several reasons, the one chiefly worth 
mentioning being that I want you to give some messages to Miss 
J ex- Blake, as, however busy you are, you are not likely to be so 
busy as she is, and therefore a letter is less waste of time to you. 
I believe though at the bottom of my heart that my real reason is 
that I am, even away from her, frightened of her. See how deep 
the feeling is. (The writer proceeds to relate a perfectly fantastic 
dream.) 

Miss Jex-Blake, as you know, has written to Dr. Sewall, advising 
me to stay in Boston this winter ; the Dr. is so good as to say she 
will keep me with her, and I am quite willing to stay, so unless my 
father and mother object, that is settled. . . . 

What joyful news that lawsuit news has been. I have had 
letters of rejoicing from many folks, but I declare I am chiefly glad 



PAYING THE PRICE 379 

for Miss J ex-Blake's sake, and I hope now she sees some prospect 
of a quiet winter. Of course there is still much to do, but she has 
put a great piece of the road behind her. Is it not so ? And I assure 
you the general question was becoming lost to sight by me in the 
particular one of her success and rest. 

If Miss Jex -Blake comments on my hand, tell her I do write my 
copies, I do remember her rules, and only fall into this style when a 
little tired as at present. . . . 

I have seen now Dr. Sewall use forceps three times, and it is 
impossible to see anything prettier. . . . She uses any sort of instru- 
ment beautifully. I should like to see her conduct some large 
operation. I think well-done surgery is fascinating, and I never 
saw anyone handle an instrument so easily and so securely. I 
should feel safe whatever she was going to do to me or mine. ..." 

Of course S. J.-B. saw the letter, though the dream was 
a most audacious one and it made her quite homesick for 
the old Boston life. 

" DEAREST LUCY," she writes, 

It is just a year since we parted, and I do so want to see you 

again. Miss makes me quite envious with her descriptions of 

her happiness in Boston and of the goodness of ' my doctor.' Will 
you come over with her in the spring ? . . . 

I am just going to set hard to work for 5 weeks in preparation for 
my ist Professional Exam., which comes off about October 22nd. 
It would never do for me to be plucked ! In fact I shall not go in 
unless I feel pretty well prepared when the time comes. Please 
thank Miss Call for her note to me, and tell her I wish she could 
have come to Edinburgh." 

She did set to work hard, but events could scarcely be 
called propitious. On the strength of Lord Gifford's judgment, 
she was renting a small house to serve as a medical school, 
arranging for the winter's course of teaching ; and, especially, 
trying to get an Anatomy lecturer recognized by a body of 
men, who rightly or wrongly did not mean to recognize 
him. Meanwhile editors showed themselves increasingly 
glad to get her work journalistic work not only on subjects 
connected with her special struggle, but about anything that 
called forth her gift for clear and incisive writing : and all 
the money she could earn in this way was not only welcome, 
but actually needed to keep things going. Although she 
was extraordinarily economical, as we have seen, her generosity 



380 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

and her large and businesslike way of dealing with things 
always gave the impression of larger means than she possessed ; 
and many appealed to her for help who would have been 
amazed to learn how narrow her margin was. 

" I am glad of both your articles," writes Mr. Russel about this 
time, " but the beginnings of both are de trop. 

If I see a topic you would care to handle, I shall be prompt to 
let you know." 

" I am much obliged by your MS., which will duly appear as a 
leader tomorrow," writes another editor. 

Her book, too, was exciting no small interest, and the con- 
sequent letters, enquiries and reviews 1 very lengthy reviews 
in some cases were a preoccupation iix^themselves. Any 
day might bring the opening up of a new vista. 

" Sept. nth. 
DARLING MOTHER, 

I have but a moment to send you a piece of news that I know 
will be very welcome, viz , that A Scotchman resident in India 
called on me last night, asked how matters were progressing, said 
the battle was being gallantly fought, and departed after stating 
mildly that he would send us ' a thousand pounds at once and more 
if needed,' that the fight might not fail for want of money ! The 
money is worth a great deal, but the moral effect is almost more, 
as the man is an absolute stranger and cares simply for the principle. 
Probably now we shall get a lot more. 

Yours lovingly, 

SOPH. 

His name is Walter Thomson, he had just read my book. (Not 
a bad 2s. 6d. worth, was it ?) " 

It is impossible to exaggerate the reverence "respect" 
is too weak a word with which S. J.-B. throughout life 
treated the money that came to her in this way. It was 
infinitely more precious to her than possessions of her own : 
and the amount of the donation made no difference. If it 

1 The following is a fair average specimen of the cordiality with which 
the book was received : " So convincing is the argument, so obvious the 
conclusions to which it leads up, that one fairly wonders, after putting 
down the essay in which they are enforced, how it should have come to 
pass in this nineteenth century that it should be necessary for any such 
essay to be written." Liverpool Mercury. 



PAYING THE PRICE 381 

was not to be used immediately, it was invested with the 
greatest care and forethought ; every penny was strictly 
accounted for ; and no farthing expended on administration, 
or on any kind of work involved (railway journeys and so 
forth), was allowed to come out of the fund itself. There 
never were any " working expenses." All that was done 
for love. 

More gifts on this scale did not follow forthwith, but her 
lecture and the book that followed it were bringing in a return 
that was worth even more. They were arousing interest 
among men who might be able to assist the cause in a bigger 
way than had yet suggested itself. 

" I wonder," writes Miss Wolstenholme, " whether you are 
aware how deeply interested Mr. Stansfeld is in your question, 
and how warmly disposed to help you by legislation or in any 
other way." 1 

There follow a number of suggestions as to the amendment 
of the Medical Act of 1858. 

Meanwhile the University had appealed to the Inner House 
against Lord Gifford's judgment, and after hanging fire for 
long months the case at this juncture became imminent. 

It was in the midst of all this that preparation for the pro- 
fessional examination went on. 

Of course the task ought not to have been a formidable 
one. S. J.-B. had done excellent class-work in the subjects 
required, and they had been simmering in her mind for 
years ; but everyone who has watched the career of many 
students knows that that man stands the best chance of 
acquitting himself well who, having got his subject up, goes 
in for the examination straightway, before the natural pro- 
cess of selection and assimilation in his own mind emphasizes 
this item and discards that, as the case may be. The know- 
ledge one wants for an examination is not the knowledge that 
becomes one's working equipment for life. 

The " last straw " for S. J.-B. was the distressing illness 
of a very dear friend in the course of those five precious weeks, 

1 Mr. Stansfeld was President of the Local Government Board. 



382 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

and finally we come without surprise to the following entry 
in the diary : 

" Sunday, Oct. 6th. Rather out of heart. I can't get courage 
or sense for the Organic Chemistry, and must leave it till E. P. comes ; 
and the Botany seems so desperately voluminous ! My head seems 
tired, I can't make it work more than an hour or so at a time, . . . 
But somehow my fatalism makes me think I shall get through, 
when E. P. comes and quiets me, she comes Thursday, loth." 

" Oct. nth. I've had such bother about Anatomy rooms, etc., 
and shall have to organize about Fund, etc. 

Things seem to crowd on me so. And other people get such nice 
long holidays ! oh, dear ! Well, as Robertson says, everything 
has its price. . . . 

Then H. [the Anatomy teacher]. The Court refused him flat on 
Monday, on ground of ' no evidence of qualification ' ! He on 
Tuesday is to send in his diplomas and other testimonials, and I have 
to get them copied and printed, etc. 

My own Botany stuck fast, I nervous and shaky again, feeling 
strength go out of me drop by drop. 

If only the 22nd were well over ! 

E. P. came back yesterday, dear child, so loving and good." 

At this point S. J.-B. breaks off to record the very in- 
different achievements of the new students in their pre- 
liminary examination ! 

" Oct. 22nd. Professional Exam. . . . Did good paper in Nat. 
Hist., fair in Chemistry, poor in Botany. Went down to Falkirk 
to sleep. 1 

" Oct. 23rd. Came up for Practical Chemistry Exam. White 
Millar met me and worried me for [law] papers. Head dazed, 
Crum Brown let me up [? off] till another day." 

Well, there is no use in " spinning out the agony." S. J.-B. 
was rejected in her examination. With a mental endowment 
obviously far above the average in either sex, she found 
herself, after all these years of study, so far as any practical 
result was concerned absolutely at the foot of the ladder. 
She had nothing whatever to show for her work : she had 
failed in a test that almost any schoolboy can pass, and the 
eye of the civilized world was upon her. 

There is no denying that it was bad to bear, and the tragic 

1 To visit the friend who had been ilL 



PAYING THE PRICE 383 

part of the matter was that she could not bring herself to 
believe that in the subject of Natural History at all events 
her paper had been fairly treated. So many petty diffi- 
culties had been thrown in her way all along, so little mag- 
nanimity had been shown her by some of those in authority, 
that her fighting instinct rose almost automatically to the 
encounter. What could this be but simply one effort more 
on the part of the enemy to defeat her per omne fas et 
nefas ? l 

About this time Professor Huxley seems to have expressed 
to some mutual friend his sympathy with the women students ; 
he had refused quite definitely, but with obvious regret 
to come to their assistance by examining their proposed 
Anatomy lecturer 2 when the University of Edinburgh refused 
to do so ; and Miss Pechey now took upon herself the difficult 
task of asking his opinion upon the Natural History paper. 
It was a great venture from every point of view, and certainly 
shows how confident S. J.-B. was in her view of the case. 

" Vor den Wissenden sick stellen " is an admirable motto, 
but the standard of examination in Natural History in 
Edinburgh at that time was certainly not the standard 
demanded by London now, and many a creditable Edin- 
burgh student of those days might have cause to congratulate 
himself that he was not examined by Huxley. 

" He was very kind about it," writes Miss Pechey, " and I had a 
long talk with him. He thought it would be difficult for H. to get 
anyone to examine him, as even Ellis would not like to constitute 
himself an examiner. I think he has rather altered his idea of the 
honesty, etc., of the Edinr. Professors, but he said such conduct was 
inexplicable to him. However, although I expect he thought I 
I was giving him a one-sided statement, I think he considers us the 
aggrieved party. 

At first he would not look at the papers, but when he had asked me 
about them, he said he would look over the Natural History, and 
although he was very kind about it, his verdict was unfavourable. 
Of course I have no doubt that they would have passed a man on 
your paper, but still you must have them extra good before you can 
make any fuss about it. ... 

1 See extract from Lancet, p. 319. 
* See Huxley's Life, i. 387. 



384 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

I hope you won't worry yourself about the papers, as I hope we 
shall have plenty of leisure so that we can go over the subjects again 
in a proper way : it would have been a wonder if you could have 
passed in the midst of all that worry. . . . God bless you, darling." 

As we know S. J.-B. had more worries on hand than the 
sore question of her examination papers. The Appeal in the 
famous case of Miss Jex- Blake v. the Senatus was really 
before the Court of Session now, and she was " up till past 12 
revising the proofs " for the daily papers. 

" Sunday, Nov. 3rd. Word from E. P. (who went to London 
Wednesday) that Huxley didn't approve my Nat. Hist, paper. So 
fight for ' pluck ' given up. 

Poor Nelly O'B. lost her father a few weeks ago." 

Apparently she wrote to report progress to her brother the 
same day. 

" The College, 

Cheltenham. Nov. 4. 1872. 
MY DEAR SOPHY, 

You have come to the right decision without a doubt. Pro- 
bably they were sharp upon you, but to prove injustice in an examiner 
is a hopeless task. They are evidently very bitter, and apparently 
not scrupulous ; but to my mind that was not the point ; for, in 
writing to you 1 1 had only to consider what was the wise course for 
you ; and it seemed to be exactly what I advised and what you 
have done. 

I am very sorry, and so is Hetty, for the mishap and the loss of 
time : but you can turn it to benefit : and all's well that ends well, 
as your cause will end certainly. 

Your affectionate brother, 

T. W. J.-B." 

" The Elms. 

Monday, 4th November. 
MY PRECIOUS DARLING, 

I am not all surprised, and so glad to hear that there is another 
opportunity in April. I had said I had no doubt they would floor 
you if they could. Your mind and time have been so engrossed 
that you cannot be very angry with yourself. I quite think I have 
felt for you more than you have for yourself. ..." 
[The dear old Mother, with the sword in her heart !] 
" I am getting on so nicely here. I hope you will not have any 
lawyers to consult with about other pressing matters, nor articles 

1 The previous letter has not been found. 





'fJaJJtcs- &A. Jc, 



PAYING THE PRICE 385 

to write when you take up study for April. I shall like to know 
when you begin (probably not till February) that I may ask help 
where it is promised to be given. I hope my darling has a little 
breathing time now, and will take every care of herself, as I will 
of her baby. * 

Ever your loving Mummy, 

MARIA EMILY JEX-BLAKE. 
It is best for me to write little." 

Meanwhile enquiries poured in on every side. The following 
paragraph appeared in a well-known Weekly : 

" The question of the admission of Women to medical degrees in 
Edinburgh University has been rather unexpectedly solved, at 
least for the present. Miss J ex-Blake, a foremost champion of the 
movement, has actually been ' plucked ' in her examination and 
sent back to complete her scientific studies." 

This paragraph was cut out and sent to S. J.-B. by other 
papers and by many individuals as well, with a request for 
an explanation, or, as they graciously put it, " for the means 
of authoritatively contradicting it." 

Norfolk cousins who had been mildly loyal and sympa- 
thetic at a distance, were roused to positive incredulity. The 
delightful Sarah of the girlhood reverts to the old affection 
and the old playful names : 

" Wimbledon. 

Dec. 1 4th. 
DEAR OLD MAN, 

I want you to write and tell me all about yourself, and why 
you did not pass your examinations. There must be a reason why 
you did not. I want you to tell me, for I hear all sorts of things, 
and want to know the truth. Send me a Scotch paper about you, 
for I never see anything in the English papers for or against you 
only facts [!] . 

Write to me like a good man. 

Ever your affectionate, 

S[ARAH] J.-B." 

Yes, things were pretty black. So black that one is not 
in the least surprised to hear that at this time Miss M'Laren 
decided to throw in her lot with the women students. Retiring 
and delicate though she was, the following letter written on 

2B 



386 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

one of her propagandist Suffrage tours, is evidence that she 
brought sufficient moral grit to the new life : 

" Strachie, [?] Argyllshire. 
Nov. zoth. 1872. 

I wish so much that you could have joined us yesterday by balloon, 
so as to have had this delicious day in the country, besides the 
pleasure of being together. The pure air would have refreshed you 
very much, and it is so lovely. Yesterday it rained in torrents. . . . 
I was so glad you were not with us, for I found I had promised more 
than I could perform, only a pleasant drive of two hours ! Imagine 
our horror when we found that the steamer advertised to sail from 
Helensburgh to Dunoon was broken down and could not go, and 
we were told that it would be impossible for us to manage the 
journey. Of course we had to find out a way to go, and it was to 
drive 3 miles, then to ferry, then to drive 4 miles, then to catch a 
steamer, then to have the 2 hours' drive originally expected ! . . . 
and only to reach this at 7 half an hour after hour of meeting ! 

It was out of the question to put meeting off, for there was no 
telegraph, and the people had come 6, 8, or 9 miles. They knew 
something must have happened to delay us, and waited patiently. 
We had to hurry to the meeting, and found a large schoolhouse 
crowded with people, and some half dozen dogs, and dimly lighted 
by 8 candles ! It was so funny ! And they were so enthusiastic. . . . 

I have been thinking a great deal about joining you, and the 
conclusion I have come to is to tell Papa and Mama that I would 
like to try to study if they would give their consent. 

If I felt I had a vocation for medicine, it would make me bolder, 
but you know that I cannot honestly plead that. On the contrary 
I have very grave doubts of my capacity for it, especially for the 
preliminary years of study, and they might very probably prove to 
be lost years. . . . 

No, the attractions to me would be a definite sphere, and an in- 
dependent one, and being associated with you in work of any kind. 

It would be a great happiness to me to be with you, and to believe 
that I was a help to you however small. 

But then, I cannot but believe that you must before long have the 
greater help of having Miss Du Pre with you, and, in the meantime, 
till she can come, you may be sure I will be as much as possible 
with you." 

A delightful correspondence ensued between Miss M'Laren 
and Miss Du Pre, who knew each other but slightly : 

" As you cannot be with Sophy," writes Miss M'Laren, " I would 
like very much to be with her, for she does really deserve all the help 



PAYING THE PRICE 387 

she can get when she has so much to do. ... It would, as you know, 
be a great happiness to me to be with her, but I would not mind for 
myself at all. If you could only be with her, I would be quite happy 
not to be, feeling that it was not right for me to risk making family 
discomfort, just for myself. What do you honestly think ? I 
would not of course think of troubling you about my concerns except 
as they concern Sophy." 

" All my instincts are against causing family sorrow and trouble," 
writes Miss Du Pre in reply. "... but I cannot but think that in 
your case the trouble would not be permanent. 

I think myself that studying new and difficult sciences and trying 
to help Sophy at the same time would be more than your strength 
would stand, at least I know I could not do it myself. Though, 
on the other hand, it might be still more difficult to study at home 
where all sorts of family habits and calls upon one's time make it 
so hard to do anything thoroughly. 

I believe, if I were you, I would try to wear away by degrees the 
opposition of my parents, perhaps by going to help Sophy for a 
month or so, and then coming home again, being willing in the mean- 
time to be present at any dinner party when they particularly needed 
my help, etc. I do think that people hate a plan so much less when 
the thought of it is no longer new and startling to them. ... I 
cannot express to you how glad I shall be if you can see it to be 
right to go to Sophy, for I think your presence and help are exactly 
what she needs and needs sorely too. But you must not think that 
I only care about it for her sake, for it would be a great pleasure to 
me to think that you were enjoying her company and friendship." 

Of course Miss M'Laren carried her point, and, if she never 
quite succeeded in persuading herself of her " vocation," 
she left a large clientele of patients in no doubt at all upon 
the subject. 



CHAPTER XVI 
END OF THE BATTLE IN EDINBURGH 

THE year 1873 ' 1S not one f tne most dramatic in the history, 
but no other has a more impressive record of work done, of 
resolute determination to try every door, and to keep on 
trying. 

It was becoming increasingly clear that whatever the 
immediate issue of the lawsuit might be a wider appeal 
must be made. Even S. J.-B. began to see that " no decision in 
our favour can give us the good will of the Medical Faculty " ; 
and Mr. Stansfeld's warm and appreciative interest in the 
question seemed to open a new door of hope. From this 
time forward the recurrence of his fine clear handwriting in 
the correspondence (brief though his letters are) is a constant 
reminder of how " Providence rescues and saves His elect 
inheritance " as " the dear Newman " would have said, 
though in another connection. 

Mr. Stansfeld knew Professor Masson well, and probably 
began his acquaintance with S. J.-B. in no ignorance of her 
dejauts, the defauts that made so many timorous ; but, 
like Masson, he was a strong man ; like Masson he thought 
Carlyle was right in holding that " on the whole we make 
too much of faults " ; and to the end of the long history 
he rejoiced wholeheartedly in the magnificent acumen and 
strength of Sophia Jex-Blake. 

S. J.-B. had made his acquaintance at the time of her 
lecture, and now, after some little correspondence, she saw 
him again, and received his introduction to some of his 
colleagues. 



END OF THE BATTLE IN EDINBURGH 389 

We quote from diary : 

" Dec. loth [1872] To London. At Cordery's till I3th. 

nth Wednesday. Saw Stansfeld at Whitehall. Then Simon, 
who, though not very sanguine as to value of women doctors, is 
quite clear they must have a chance. Suggests that the Colleges 
could not refuse to examine us. Lord Ripon also kindly, quite 
inclined to make Medical Act as dependent as possible on Registra- 
tion. Lowe marvellously civil. Very glad to see me, was quite 
clear it was a case for legislation. If we lost the lawsuit, he would 
consult with Stansfeld, and do all he could. 

Tuesday, iyth. (Dear old man's birthday, would have been 
82 !) To Yaxham. Mother fairly well. 

For next 10 days stayed much in bed, read Gil Bias, etc., in utter 
dearth of books. Worried by letters and telegrams from Edinburgh. 

Thursday 26th. Started back for Edinburgh. Carriage to 
myself whole way. Arrived 

Friday 6 a.m. Slept an hour or two. Then 4 hours' cab and 
canvassing ; and so on for next week." 

" Monday, Jan. 6th. 1873. Infirmary meeting. We apparently 
beaten by 279 to 271 pending scrutiny. Turner and Lister waved 
hats and hurrahed ! " 

" Feb. loth. The piety of the Infirmary Managers actually 
obliged them to turn us out of Sunday visit, at least ' for the present.' 
Cowan * delightfully indignant for once at ' breach of faith '. 

Feb. 1 6th. He went to Infirmary during Sunday visit ; and 
went away, telling Mrs. Thorne oracularly that ' he had seen quite 
enough for his purpose '. 

Feb. i7th. Monday. He made a tremendous row at Managers' 
Meeting. Said that the previous day he had visited the wards and 
' had never seen a more truly Christian, more truly Sabbatic sight, 
than the ladies at the sick-beds.' By 10 to 6 votes in again." 

Such were the ups and downs of daily life. 

The question was raised at this time of having one or more 
women on the School Board, and S. J.-B. took up the matter 
enthusiastically. It was useless to remind her that she had 
more than enough on her hands already. Here was a matter 
in which she really could serve. And a great occasion it 
proved. Even those who were children at the time have not 
forgotten the wild excitement in Edinburgh over that election, 

1 Lord Provost. 



390 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

and the lift given to the whole woman movement when the 
two lady candidates Miss Phoebe Blyth and Miss Flora 
Stevenson appeared on the list second only to the Roman 
Catholic priest, who had, of course, all the suffrages of the 
faithful. 

" You and Miss Blake must have half killed yourselves in 
getting a Committee with such names as you have," Miss 
Blyth had written. 

" If you and Miss M'Laren had not gone in so strongly for 
my interests," wrote Miss Stevenson, " I should have found 
myself very much lower." 

So perhaps it was worth while, for the place taken by the 
women on the list was a weapon of good fighting force for 
the future. 

It was a helpful distraction too for S. J.-B. herself, and at 
that moment the constant pressure of unsatisfactory diffi- 
culties and worries some few of these latter, of course, created 
by herself was very wearisome. Always something trying 
to do, and never anything to show for it, that was the record 
of her life at the time. Here is a heart cry such as one seldom 
gets from her now : 

" Sunday, May i8th. " Oh, dear ! for some brightness and 
freshness and pleasure to break the long grey wait and work ! 
Nothing's wrong, I'm fairly well, and by no means unhappy. I've 
the real essentials of happiness, love and work, but the fruition 
of both seems so far away ! 

And I want 3 or 4 days of bright sunshine, rides and drives, ices 
and champagne ! easy luxurious life for a few days' change. 

Ah, well ! Some day I hope to have just such a bright easy home 
or nest somewhere and to find brain and body workers to take to 
it for the 3 or 4 days' rest and change ! How one needs to experience 
needs in order to understand them ! " 

There are some perhaps who will read this entry with no 
little feeling when they remember how, long years after, she 
realized this ideal in the home of her retirement, Windydene. 1 

1 "... And now a flood of memories of sweet Windydene brings tears 
to my eyes. No fear there of rowdy ricsha coolies in a narrow alley 
quarrelling over the right of way nor rattle of carriages with their annoying 
official bell ' Clear the way ' up to 2 a.m. but just silent peace. My 
heaven will certainly have to be silence for a space. But Windydene 



END OF THE BATTLE IN EDINBURGH 391 

But the saving sense of humour was never less than dormant. 
She seldom has time to quote jokes in the diary now, but here 
is the very next entry : 

" May 23rd. From Life of Barham. Dr. Thos. Hume charged 
73. 6d. instead of 55. for death notice, because of ' universally beloved 
and deeply regretted.' To surly clerk, ' Congratulate yourself, 
Sir, that this is an expense to which your Executors will never be 
put ! ' " 

The mood was not quite evanescent, however, for the 
anxious Mother reads it between the lines : 

"13 Sussex Square, 

28 May. 
DARLING, 

I fear you were very weary when you wrote ; Mother's heart 
is constantly with her little one, and yearning for some little word 
of her health or her interests. Though I don't want to be selfish 
and have her write often, when she does write she must mention 
herself and how she is getting on. 

H. [a former maid] is paying me a little visit. She looks very 
poorly and she jumped at my offer to come here for a week. . . . 
She asked about you, and I lent her your book. She wishes enough 
there were a lady doctor for her to consult. 

Ever your loving Mummy, 

M. E. J.-B." 

One is glad to know that the women students were having 
a course of lectures on Medical Jurisprudence from Dr. (after- 
wards Sir Henry) Littlejohn that term, with all the delightful 
excursions, topographical and mental, which that course 
involved. No one who has had the privilege of the same 
experience can regard the history of that summer as a trial 
without compensation. 

Meanwhile the lawsuit was dragging its weary course. One 
cannot be surprised that the University should have appealed 
against Lord Gifford's decision. If appeal be made to law 
at all, one must get the last word of the law, especially if, 

contains . . . and the Doctor, and I remember talks over the drawing- 
room fire, and those incomparable evenings in the Doctor's Study, and as 
these thoughts make one both weepy and sentimental, I had better stop." 
Extract from a letter from Dr. Lillie Saville, Tientsin, Jan. jth, 1911. 



392 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

in the last resort, public funds are available to pay for it. 
There were still lurking possibilities in that little word " vir," 
and it might yet be shown that the University had done an 
illegal thing when it admitted the women in the first instance. 
If that proved to be so and it was the crux of the whole case 
the University (so it was argued) must be held excused from 
all responsibility towards the women students themselves. 

But, if one refrains from blaming the University, one 
cannot sufficiently admire the behaviour of the women 
students as a whole during those trying days of uncer- 
tainty. While the younger members of the little band 
were pursuing their education where and how they could, 
the seniors were striving on every hand to find some open 
door or to unlock one that was closed. Birmingham was at 
least discussed, with its possibilities ; St. Andrews, Durham, 
and the various centres in Ireland were visited and worked 
diplomatically, and for a time not without apparent prospect 
of success. It is pathetic to go through the endless reams 
of correspondence vital once with hopes and fears that 
was destined to end, for the moment at least, in nothing. 

In June S. J.-B. and Miss M'Laren went on a mission to 
Newcastle, and they had scarcely left Edinburgh before 
Miss Pechey, who had just returned, sent the following 
report : 

"15 Buccleuch Place, 
Edinburgh. 

June ijth. 1873. 
DARLING SOPH, 

I was going to write to you yesterday, but was overcome with 
sleep, the result, I suppose, of getting up at 5 o'clock. Last night 
Millar sent a copy of the Consulted Lords' Opinion with a note to 
say that the case would be put on this week, and that the proceedings 
would occupy only a few minutes merely formal. He is to let 
me know when it comes on. Ormidale, Mure, Mackenzie and 
Shand are dead against us, contending that the Court had no power 
to make the regulations. Deas, Ardmillan, Jerviswoode and Gifford 
only in favour of the regulations holding good and our right to 
graduation, but not a word as to the regulations being enforced, 
and we are still left at the mercy of the individual professors. 
' That being the case, this coloured individual will take to the 



END OF THE BATTLE IN EDINBURGH 393 

woods.' We must look either to Newcastle or St. Andrews. My 
only care now about the decision of the other judges is with regard 
to the expenses. . . . 

I hope the Newcastle people are behaving well." 

Individually they were behaving well of course, and indi- 
vidually the applicants saw them. Two of S. J.-B.'s drafted 
petitions have been preserved : 

" Station Hotel, 

Newcastle. June igth. 1873. 
GENTLEMEN, 

Relying on the liberality with which the College of Science 
of the University of Durham has been thrown open to women, I 
venture to request that you will pursue a similar liberal policy with 
reference to your College of Medicine, and will admit to it those 
women who are desirous to enter the medical profession, and for 
whose education absolutely no provision exists at this moment in 
Great Britain. 

If it is thought desirable that separate classes should be established 
in any of the subjects of medical education, I am prepared to 
guarantee for such classes the payment of whatever minimum fee 
may be fixed by you, and I am further in a position to state that, 
if your College is thrown open, at least fifteen women will at once 
enrol themselves as students. 

I have the honour to be, Gentlemen, 

Yours obedly, 

SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE." 

" June asrd. 1873. 
DEAR SIR, 

As I understand that some of the Medical Professors feel a 
difficulty in arranging for the education of women, while others are 
quite ready to do so, I venture to suggest whether it would not 
be possible to admit ladies tentatively for a single term to the classes 
of such teachers as are prepared to receive them, pending a final 
decision of the whole question. 

I think I mentioned to you that those among us who have studied 
longest, have attended all the classes required for the Durham 
licence, except those of Midwifery, Materia Medica and Therapeutics, 
and that if these classes could be given in the winter session they 
might present themselves for the April examination. After the 
experience of such a tentative session, it might with greater certainty 
be decided whether or not permanent arrangements could be made. 

Indeed, even if it "should be thought impossible to make any such 
partial arrangement for instruction, it might be a matter for con- 



394 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

sideration whether the Medical Council (in conjunction with the 
Durham authorities) might not agree to examine women with a view 
to the licence, if they presented certificates of having attended all 
the necessary classes, and if they paid the fees for one session at 
Newcastle, even without attending classes there, in case such attend- 
ance should be found impracticable. 

Commending the whole question to the most favourable con- 
sideration of yourself and your colleagues, I remain, 

Yours obedly, 

SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE." 

At- least she and Miss M'Laren were not kept waiting 
long in suspense. On the very same day the answer was 
despatched : 

" University of Durham College of Medicine, 
Newcastle on Tyne. 

June 23rd. 1873. 
DEAR Miss BLAKE, 

I am requested to forward you a copy of a resolution passed 
unanimously at an extraordinary meeting of members held today. 

' That the members of this College, at an extraordinary meeting, 
having considered the question of opening the Classes of the College 
for the education of women, decide that they cannot consent to the 
application made, either as to education or as to Examination for 
Licences and Degrees.' 

I am, 

Yours very truly, 

W. C. M. ARNISON, M.D., 
Secretary." 

St. Andrews seemed more hopeful. Professor Campbell, 
as we know, was more than favourable ; so was Professor 
Baynes ; there is a thoroughly encouraging letter from 
Principal Tulloch at this time as to the prospects ; and 
Professor Birrell wrote " in a friendly spirit to the cause 
which has been ennobled by the rare spirit with which you 
and your friends have fought a hard fight in its defence." 

One wonders whether he had the faintest idea how hard 
the fight had been. 

In any case opposition proved too strong, and nothing was 
done at St. Andrews. 

One must remember that the full equipment of the medical 
side of the University was a big financial undertaking ; and, 



END OF THE BATTLE IN EDINBURGH 395 

although the women were prepared to bear their share, they 
were naturally unwilling to do this without some pledge that 
they would not be left stranded in the first emergency. 
Moreover, they were anxious not to lose time, and above all 
things St. Andrews was unwilling to be hurried. 

Dr. King Chambers urged the women to get their classes 
somehow anyhow, and then to " practise boldly as un- 
registered practitioners who are ready to submit to examina- 
tion when called upon." 

A heroic piece of advice all round. One hopes the un- 
registered practitioners would be allowed breathing space 
"when called upon" to refresh their recollection for 
instance of the preparations of opium ! 

Meanwhile Mrs. Thorne was working hard to arrange 
classes in Edinburgh, and failing the University degree 
to secure for women the Licence of the Royal Colleges of 
Physicians and Surgeons a privilege which was actually 
granted some dozen years later. She and others were also 
enquiring about the possibilities of the Apothecaries' Society 
of London and the Apothecaries' Hall of Ireland, and, with 
a view to this, S. J.-B. went the length of securing a legal 
apprenticeship to her old friend and teacher, Mr. Salzmann 
of Brighton, who was most anxious to help her if he could. 
In fact no stone was left unturned. 

The women students were really so restrained, so admirable, 
through all this, that it is a positive relief to come upon the 
following outburst some months later from Miss Pechey : 

" Langham, Colchester, 

October rath. 1873. 
MY DARLING SOPH, 

Since I saw you I have indeed suffered many things of many 
physicians, and my temper is no better but rather worse. It is, 
however, gradually working down to its normal again. If I could 
only have spoken my mind when they talked their conceited bosh 
about their infinite superiority, and said, ' Do you know what a 
poor fool you are making of yourself ? ' it wouldn't have been so 
hard ; but to sit still, smiling benignantly, when men, commonplace 
enough, goodness knows, in everything but their uncommon stupidity, 
boasted of their mental capacity ! it was no wonder that, having 
to bottle it all up, while I mused the fire burned. They are so like 



396 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

the fools that David had to contend with that I can't help quoting 
him." 

After reporting progress, she goes on: "Still I would not have 
Mrs. Thome stop in her arrangements for classes in Edinburgh, as 
I think we have no chance, the influence of the medical men being 
so much against us. 

Yes, I am curious. I wonder what it is. Perhaps another hopdog ? 
The other died this morning, poor thing, it had had to go too long 
without food, and even fresh hops did not revive it. 

Please give my love to Scrap. . . . 

I will telegraph to you when I hear from S. 

Yours lovingly, 

EDITH." 

Meanwhile the great decision of the Edinburgh Lords had 
been formally given. The Lord Justice-General, being Chan- 
cellor of the University, gave no judgment, but the Lord 
Justice-Clerk and four others, including all the remaining 
judges of the First Division were in favour of the women, 
students. The seven remaining judges, including Lord Mure 
and Lord Shand, were against the women students ; so the 
case was lost by the usual " narrow majority." 

The adverse judgment was based mainly on the opinion 
that the University Court had, in 1869, done an illegal 
thing in admitting women to the University at all, and on 
this ground the authorities were held excused from all 
responsibility towards the women themselves. 

As we look back on the episode after all these years, the 
point that stands out is the brave and luminous judgment 
of the Lord Justice-Clerk, of which the following is, from our 
point of view, the most interesting passage : 

" To deny the women students the degree which was essential 
to their entering the profession, and with a view to which they had 
studied, on the pretext for it was no better that no such end was 
ever contemplated, was entirely unjust and unwarranted ; and that 
all the more that all the evils said to be connected with the admission 
of females to the University attached only to the study which was 
permitted, while the honour could injure no one, and was only 
valuable as the passport to the medical profession, with which, as 
a body, the defenders had no concern. That this question of gradua- 
tion, from whatever cause, was in reality the sole matter in dispute, 
was sufficiently evident from the pleading of the defenders them- 



END OF THE BATTLE IN EDINBURGH 397 

selves. No doubt they devoted a large portion of their argument 
to prove that women never had been, and never ought to be, admitted 
to University study ; but in the sequel they disclosed with sufficient 
frankness that if the pursuers would have contented themselves 
with mere certificates of proficiency, and would have abandoned 
their claim for graduation, they might possibly have fared better. 
This alternative implied university study, and, therefore, as gradua- 
tion was the cardinal point in the case, his opinion was that, on 
completing the curriculum as matriculated students, the pursuers 
were entitled by the existing rules of the University to be admitted 
to graduation, and, indeed, he had found little of argument addressed 
to prove the contrary. This, in his opinion, was sufficient for the 
decision of this case. It was, however, maintained by the defenders 
that the University Court had no power to pass these regulations ; 
they said that by the constitution of the University no woman could 
be admitted either for study or for graduation, and that the regula- 
tions and all that has followed upon them were therefore a mere 
nullity, and could receive no effect. He thought this answer entirely 
irrelevant. Questions might no doubt arise between the superior 
and subordinate powers in the University as to the legality of the 
former's orders, and these might legitimately be called in question. 
But, when a student had entered the University, and had duly con- 
formed to the rules on the faith of which he entered, it would be no 
defence on the part of the Senatus to his claim to graduate that the 
rules under which he had been admitted were liable to legal objection. 
The duty of the Senatus was to obey the de facto law of the University, 
and any other principle would be not only subversive of academical 
discipline, but would lead to the greatest injustice, as he thought 
was the case here. The matriculation of the student created an 
implied contract between him and the University authorities that, 
if he complied with the existing rules, they would confer the benefits 
in the hope of which he resorted to the University. They could 
not, after the student had performed his part of the engagement, 
refuse to fulfil theirs, on the ground that the contract was made 
under rules which it was beyond the power of their academical 
superiors to make. They could not compel the student, as a con- 
dition of his graduation, to take upon himself the defence of the 
laws of the University ; his sole duty was to obey them, and if their 
lawfulness was disputed, that must be done in a question with those 
who made them, not with the student who trusted to them." 

The women students were ordered to pay the expenses of 
the appeal : and thus ended the hard fought " Battle in 
Edinburgh." 



CHAPTER XVII 
THE QUESTION IN PARLIAMENT 

How far S. J.-B. was depressed in mind and body by the 
events of that wearing fight, we can fairly guess. But nothing 
had happened to disturb in the smallest degree her faith, 
her philosophy of life. She never doubted that she was 
fighting the battle of the Lord ; but greatly though she 
hoped, sure though she felt of final victory for her cause 
she was always, in the background of her being, absolutely 
prepared for the defeat of any one of her plans. In the 
thick of the combat, she seemed so engrossed that comrades 
and onlookers were wont to say, " Defeat will kill her," 
but this was a complete misunderstanding of her attitude. 
The moment defeat came, it was accepted as simply the will 
of God, though it well might be that God still meant her to 
try again. 

In the occasional great affairs of later life it was positively 
startling to contrast her apparent inability to recognize 
another side to the question at issue with her instant accept- 
ance of an adverse decision when it came. But for the vital 
record we now possess of her youth, most people would have 
had no clue. She was not ordinarily taken for a religious 
woman ; but it is simply true that the watchword of her 
life passively and actively was Fiat voluntas tua. 

She was one of those who pray ; but she would have thought 
it wrong to pray for the success of a definite scheme, for the 
life of a friend, even in the hour of her greatest need for 
the renewal of a broken friendship. 

And indeed there was always some comfort at hand, quite 



THE QUESTION IN PARLIAMENT 399 

apart from the highest philosophy. To the end of her life 
the words were often on her lips, " You see we had such 
excellent friends " ; and though some few adherents were 
estranged because they thought the battle was being fought 
too pugnaciously, others became increasingly impressed by 
the extraordinary constancy shown by the fighters, and, in 
particular, by the protagonist's rare and individual type of 
unworldliness, an unworldliness which, just because it was 
individual, often made life rather difficult for her supporters. 
Here is a letter from one of the Edinburgh professors, who 
in the early days had begged S. J.-B. not to speak harshly of 
an Alma Mater of which she would yet be proud, and who, 
later, had congratulated her on a book which " tells a very 
sad and disgraceful story, and tells it clearly and temperately 
and effectively, all the more effectively because your justifi- 
able indignation is kept well within bounds " : 

" Edinburgh, 21 Oct. 1873. 
DEAR MADAM, 

I send you herein a cheque for five pounds towards the law 
expenses of the lady medical students in the recent trial. 

If I had the misfortune to be a member of the University Court, 
I should think myself bound in honour to pay my individual pro- 
portion of the whole expense incurred by these ladies in consequence 
of their supposing that this learned Court knew the extent of its 
own powers. Horace's words, ' Delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi,' 
may in this case be rendered, ' The University Court blundered, and 
the Ladies are mulcted in the costs.' If any sense of justice is still 
extant in this country, the result must be, not only the payment of 
these costs by public subscription, but a more than ever energetic 
agitation for the overthrow of male monopoly in the medical pro- 
fession. 

Yours most truly, 

W. B. HODGSON. 
Miss Stevenson." 

Immediately after the legal decision had been given, the 
Spectator took up the question in an article " Women's Wrongs 
at Edinburgh," of which the following sentences give the 
gist: 

" To canvass the legality of the judgment itself is alike beyond 
the present writer's competency and his wish, though it may be 



400 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

permitted to remark that the best known names are found in the 
minority, and that the reasonings on the other side, while turning on a 
very narrow principle, are exceedingly discursive and inconsequent. 

. . . The Senate included some staunch friends of the lady students, 
and about an equal number of resolute opponents, but the indifferent 
majority who swayed the action of the body appears to have had 
no aim except to hush up a troublesome affair. Their policy was 
to do all they could to oblige the applicants, meanwhile trusting to 
the chapter of accidents to escape the difficulties that might come 
after." 

This was shrewd and true. 

Within a few days a long and exhaustive review of the 
position and its possibilities, from the pen of Mrs. Garrett 
Anderson, appeared in the Times, in the course of which the 
writer urged that the time was not ripe for the medical educa- 
tion of women in Great Britain, and that " in no way could 
women better serve the cause we desire to promote than by 
going to Paris to study medicine, and returning here as soon 
as might be to practise it." " Never," she said, " was there 
a case in which the truth of the adage, ' Solvitur ambulando,' 
was more likely to make itself felt." [In the spirit of Professor 
Hodgson's translation of Horace, one may say, in fact, that 
" the difficulty might be solved by crossing the Channel."] 

Of course S. J.-B. did not agree with her, and she wrote 
a detailed reply * which Jupiter supported with a leading 
utterance in his own name. He was not enthusiastic about 
women doctors at all, but in this particular difference of 
opinion he gave his vote for the " equally deserving, but 
hitherto less fortunate aspirant to the position of a legally 
qualified practitioner." 2 

S. J.-B. knew more of the hidden springs than anyone, and 
she did not consider that the time had come to give in. She 

1 Appendix E. 

2 " In this case, as in most others, those who say they want a thing must 
put their own shoulders to the wheel in order to obtain it, and must be 
prepared to back the soundness of their opinions. If only twenty women 
annually could be added to the ranks of the medical profession in this 
country, the expediency of the addition would be speedily removed from 
the domain of controversy, and the expression, ' Solvitur ambulando.' 
which Mrs. Anderson calls an adage, would be applicable to the case." 

Times, August 23rd, 1873. 



THE QUESTION IN PARLIAMENT 401 

who had borne the brunt of so many disappointments 
was still full of hope. She wanted her own country to 
give her this thing. Above all she felt that " so long as 
no means of education are provided at home, only a very 
small number of women will ever seek admission to the 
profession." 

"This last consideration," she says, "was to me con- 
clusive." 

" I greatly admire your letter to Mrs. G. Anderson," wrote 
Professor Hodgson, " and I am truly glad to see that you 
are not so despondent as I am. The passive power of resist- 
ance on the part of those who hold a position is terribly 
difficult to overcome. It is not mere inertia ; that would 
be bad enough. Ultimate success I do not at all despair 
of, but individual life is short and the journey is long and 
arduous." 

Both Times and Spectator spoke severely of the behaviour 
of the University, and on September 1st an apologia appeared 
from the pen of the Principal. It was just the letter one 
might have expected from an able, urbane, scholarly gentle- 
man ; he scanned the whole history "as we do our own 
poetry, laying stress on the right syllables and passing lightly 
over a halting foot." It would have been a fine and conclu- 
sive defence, if Jupiter had not allowed a poor overworked 
medical student to answer it. The two letters represent 
two conflicting schools of historians, the one sweeping, 
picturesque, probable : the other definite, statistical, true. 
The former is certainly the easier to read. The correspondence 
is so essentially typical of many of the " disputes " S. J.-B. 
had with others in the course of her life that it is given in 
full in the appendix. 1 

" I have seen the Venerable Principal's letter," wrote a 
distinguished lawyer from Uig, " for even in these uttermost 
parts of the earth the Scotsman has reached me, and I need 
not say what I thought of it. I read also with great satis- 
faction your thorough demolition of the learned and venerable 
and inaccurate gentleman, and the Scotsman's excellent 
punching of his head." 

1 Appendix F. 

2C 



402 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

S. J.-B. spent part of that summer holiday visiting Norfolk 
cousins, and she took the opportunity to read a paper on her 
special subject at the Social Science Congress at Norwich, 
under the auspices of her friend, Professor Hodgson, who was 
President of the Education Section. 1 Here she made two 
friendships of great value, one with Miss Louisa Hubbard, 
whose sister, Lady Rendel, had been S. J.-B.'s schoolfellow ; 
the other, even more memorable, with Miss Pauline Irby, who 
was just entering upon her heroic and self-sacrificing life work 
in Bosnia. In October S. J.-B. returned to Edinburgh to 
clinch the arrangements Mrs. Thorne was making for the 
winter session. 

It is one more instance of the extraordinary, dogged per- 
severance of those women that during that winter session the 
lectures were delivered to women as before by Edinburgh 
Extra-Mural lecturers, the subjects being Materia Medica, 
Pathology and Midwifery. S. J.-B. attended these lectures 
when she could, and took honours in all of them ; but she 
was already in correspondence with Dr. Anstie and others 
as to the possibility of opening some school for women in the 
larger and more impersonal milieu of London. As a matter 
of fact, the whole centre of interest had changed. The 
question was now potentially before Parliament, not indeed 
as a question of practical politics to be decided by the rank 
and file, but as a matter for private discussion by a few men 
of courage and vision. 

" It was necessary," wrote Mr. Stansfeld in reviewing the 
history three years later, 2 " to appeal to a yet higher tribunal. 
Such appeal might have been made on the question of law 
to the House of Lords ; but that would have meant further 
indefinite delay and further heavy expense, and then, if the 
result were favourable, a probable refusal of the university 
to act on their ascertained powers. It was necessary to 
secure the admission of women to medical study and practice, 

1 Lord Houghton was President of the Congress. In a letter to his 
wife, dated October 3rd, 1873, he says, "Miss Jex- Blake and Mrs. Grey 
both spoke capitally." Lord Houghton's Life, vol. ii. p. 281. 

2 " Medical Women," by the Right Hon. James Stansfeld, M.P., Nine- 
teenth Century, July, 1877. 



THE QUESTION IN PARLIAMENT 403 

and not merely to ascertain that one out of nineteen examining 
bodies could admit them if it liked. Miss Jex-Blake and her 
friends determined to widen their appeal, to base it on the 
ground of right, and to address it to Parliament and to public 
opinion." 

As early as August 1872 Sir David Wedderburn (on behalf 
of Sir Robert Anstruther) had moved that the vote for the 
Scottish Universities should be reduced by the amount of the 
salaries of the Edinburgh Medical Professors. He explained 
that the motion was brought forward in order to lay before 
the House the course followed by the authorities of the 
University of Edinburgh, but that, in view of the fact that the 
Lord Ordinary, had, a few days before, given a judgment in 
favour of the ladies, he hoped the University would accept 
the decision as final and as indicating to them their duties in 
the matter ; and he would therefore refrain from pressing 
the motion to a division. 

When the University appealed against the Lord Ordinary's 
decision, and got it reversed on appeal, Sir David Wedderburn, 
on July 2pth, 1873, gave notice that he would, early in the 
following session, bring in a Bill to grant to the Scottish 
Universities the power they were now supposed not to possess, 
to educate women in medicine and to grant to them the 
ordinary medical degrees. 

It was highly desirable, of course, to secure Government 
support for this Bill, and in October we find S. J.-B. in corre- 
spondence with the Home Secretary. There is a long letter 
marked "Private" in which Mr. Lowe (Lord Sherbrooke) 
expresses his view of the matter, and asks her to let him 
know what course she proposes to follow. Shortly after, we 
get the following : 

" Secretary of State, 

Home Department. 
Oct. 13. 1874. 

MY DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I have done what I can to forward your views. I should 
think you would be met by the same legal difficulty in Ireland as 
in Scotland. But though it may not be very agreeable to my 
constituents I should have no objection if this were the only obstacle 
to introduce an enabling Bill giving all Universities the power if 



404 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

they please to confer medical degrees or indeed any other degrees 

on women. 

Believe me, 

Very truly yours, 

ROBERT LOWE." 

Clearly she was eager to follow up the opening, for ten days 
later he writes again : 

" I am afraid I cannot commit the Government to introducing 
the Bill without consulting them. I will do so at the Cabinets 
which will take place next month and tell you the result." 1 

" The matter has been discussed to-day," writes Mr. Stansfeld 
on Dec. ist, " but nothing is settled ; I apprehend difference of 
opinion. . . . 

1 should advise personal communication with members of the 
Government before January Cabinets. A concise but complete and 
temperate statement in favour of legislation would, I think, be 
useful." 

So, early in January, S. J.-B. went up to London to inter- 
view ministers and others. 

" Jan. yth. Wednesday. Mr. Lowe, 4 p.m. Very cordial and 
courteous. Would certainly bring in a Bill if his colleagues allowed 
him, very doubtful if they would, if not, would help Wedderburn 
all he could, ' and I can do a great deal.' 

Thought Enabling Bill more hopeful than compelling Medical 
Boards to examine." 

" Jan. loth. Saturday. In morning at Museum, looking up 
Charters of Colleges, etc. 

2 p.m. Sir J. Lubbock. Pleasant and friendly, non-committal 
rather. Would talk with Wedderburn, ' generally agreed with him.' 

At 4 p.m. Stansfeld. Friendly as ever. Thought Selborne's 
opinion most important." 

After a few days spent with Mrs. Jex-Blake at Brighton 
the tale proceeds : 

" Tuesday, 2oth. At i p.m. saw Lord Aberdare, quite friendly, 
' should heartily support Bill.' Was quite willing that Bill should 
come from his office, by Forster. 



1 Mr. Lowe's advocacy was strengthened by a fine memorial presented 
to him at this time by 471 graduates of the University of London, praying 
that the benefits of the University should be extended to women. This 
memorial was secured through the exertions of Dr. Alfred Shewen. 



THE QUESTION IN PARLIAMENT 405 

2. p.m. Grant Dufi, friendly but not encouraging as to his power 
to help with Cabinet. 

Wednesday 2ist. Saw Thos. Hughes, 10 a.m. Very friendly. 
Would speak to Forster, etc. ... 

Thursday 22nd. Breakfasted with the Russell Gurneys. Very 
friendly. He quite ready to put his name on back of Wedderburn's 
Bill. On the whole encouraged to get special Exam, and practise 
in spite of Act, if no legislation to be got. 1 

1 1 a.m. Lady Selborne ' knew nothing about ' our question, 
laughed at the idea of my seeing the Chancellor but listened fairly 
to what I had to say, seemed impressed by the facts and by the 
attention of the other ministers, promised to report fairly what 
I had said. 

Not specially courteous or gracious, but I think honest." 

" 8.30 p.m. express from King's Cross to Edinburgh. 

Friday 23rd. Illuminations, etc., for Duke of Edinburgh's 
wedding day. 

Saturday, 24th. Dissolution ! What next ? " 

It was only too true. The time of reaction had come after 
a long period of reforming energy under Mr. Gladstone, and 
now failing to find an adequate rallying cry for his party 
he dissolved Parliament and appealed to the country. In 
the confusion of the moment the Home Secretary did not 
forget the women students. 

" MY DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I am sorry to say that in the present state of things it is quite 
impossible for me to bring in a Bill on your subject or indeed on 
any other. I don't think you will find much difficulty in getting 
a man. 

I congratulate you on your brother's appointment. 2 

Very truly yours, 

R. LOWE." 



1 " I was very much troubled by your last letter," wrote Dr. Sewall a 
month later, " for the idea of your beginning to practise without a diploma 
seems to me such a mistake. It appears to me that by practising illegally 
in that way, you will be giving up all you have been fighting for, and will 
be opening a way that some women who have not studied thoroughly 
may use ; and there will be no way of your showing the public the differ- 
ence between your qualifications." 

1 To the Headmastership of Rugby. 



406 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

This was followed on February loth by a letter from Mr. 
Stansfeld : 

" DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

The Conservatives will certainly come in and for,a long time. 

I should have thought that Russell Gurney might not improbably 
now be placed upon the Bench. I don't suppose that a political 
appointment would suit him ; unless it were that of Speaker and 
I have not heard his name mentioned for it. 

I think you can't do better than ask him, saying at the same time 
that you cannot but see that the coming political change may make 
it out of his power to comply. 

It is all very extraordinary and mortifying. 

Yours truly, 

J. STANSFELD. 

The suggested letter was roughly drafted forthwith : 

" To Russell Gurney. 

Will you forgive me if, at such a busy and engrossing time, I 
venture to trouble you about our comparatively small affairs, very 
important as they are to us. 

You are, of course, aware that Sir David Wedderburn is no longer 
in Parliament^ 1 and I suppose it is quite certain that the present 
Government must go out, so that Mr. Lowe cannot at least introduce 
the Bill as Home Secretary, and thus on both hands our prospects 
are at an end. 

I venture, however, to rely on the kind interest you expressed in 
our cause, and to ask you whether it would be possible for you to 
induce the Conservative Government to take it up, or, if not, whether 
we might hope for your personal help still farther in the matter, 
if you do not take office, as I hear you may. I think Mr. Lowe would 
be willing to help us as a private member, and it occurred to me 
as possible that you and he might take up the Bill jointly so as to 
conciliate both sides of the House. 

I am personally very ignorant of political matters, and of what 
could and what could not be done. I shall feel it the greatest 
possible favour if you will kindly tell me how far you can help us 
in this matter, and will give me any advice on the subject which may 
occur to you. It is of extreme importance to us that the Bill should, 
if passed at all, be passed as soon as possible, as it will at any rate 
be difficult enough to make arrangements in time for next winter's 
session, and we can ill afford to lose another year. 

I trust that you will at least excuse me for thus troubling you. 

Yours truly obliged, 

b. J.-J3. 

1 Sir David Wedderburn did not offer himself for re-election. 



THE QUESTION IN PARLIAMENT 407 

A most gracious answer to this arrived without loss of time : 

" Queen's Hotel, Hastings, 

_. ' , T ,.. I3th. Feb. 

DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

Although politically opposed to Sir D. Wedderburn, yet for 
your sake and for that of the cause which he so faithfully supported 
I can sincerely regret the loss of his seat. 

I really do not know what course to advise you to pursue. My 
absence from Parliament during nearly the whole of the two last 
Sessions makes it more difficult for me than it would have otherwise 
have been. 

I should think that it would scarcely be possible to get the new 
Government as a Government to take up the measure. Coming 
in at the time they do they will be sure to take up as few measures 
as possible. If a Bill is brought in by Mr. Lowe or anyone else I 
would not only support it but use any little influence I may have 
with the Ministry to induce them not to oppose it. 

The state of my health is such that I cannot undertake to take 
charge of the Bill. I have come here in order to get a little rest 
before the Meeting of Parliament and I am under positive orders 
from my doctor to avoid all extra work. 

I fear indeed that during the next Session I am likely to be a 
somewhat useless member. 

I shall always be ready to consult with you, though at present I 
confess that I do not see my way. 

Believe me, 

Very sincerely yours, 

RUSSELL GURNEY." 

It was characteristic of the vicissitudes of S. J.-B.'s life at 
the time that within a few days of receiving this letter she 
had a telegram from Mrs. Jex-Blake's physician at Brighton : 
" Your Mother is very poorly. I should like you to come." 

This was delivered at 8 p.m., and it is needless to say that 
she started by the night train. A fortnight of anxious nursing 
followed ; but her affairs were not forgotten : 

" Local Government Board, 

Whitehall. Feb. 24. 74. 
DEAR MASSON, 

I have heard, of course, also from Miss J ex-Blake. I won't 
say ' No ' at any rate at present. 

First I will see Lowe and ascertain his mind ; and then I should like 
to see if someone more acceptable to Dizzy cannot be found. I think 
one must look around one first in the new Parliament, before deciding. 



408 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Is not the Bill you propose simply one enabling Universities to 
grant Degrees to women ; or what else do you propose ? 

Whether it is good or bad I should tell you that the wirepulling 
and newspaper doctors hate me. 

Yours ever, 

J. STANSFELD." 

" Feb. 25th. 74. 

DEAR MASSON, 

I have seen Lowe about your proposed Bill. 

He is ' heartily ' for it, but thinks that he and I had better support 
and not originate. Just now, he says, whatever we do will probably 
be considered wrong, as the tide is against us, and for this reason 
none of these Bills should be introduced by any of us ex-cabinet 
ministers. Moreover if any of them are to pass they must be made 
as little unacceptable as possible to Dizzy & Co., which means that 
they had better be proposed and seconded by men on either side 
of the House one on one side and one on the other but not by us. 

I must say that the more I think of it the more I find this reasoning 
sound. And I am prepared to advise therefore that you should 
not ask either Lowe or me. 

As to myself there is another special reason, to which I have 
already referred, why it might be more prudent not to choose me, 
viz. that ' the doctors ' hate me ; and tho' I can't see exactly how 
that fact might operate, it might at least be admitted that it might 
operate unfavourably, and that therefore it would be safer to look 
elsewhere. 

I won't write to Miss Jex-Blake yet, but will wait to hear from you 
what you think. 

Of course I would willingly support and help. 

Yours ever, 

J. STANSFELD." 

" 10, Regent Terrace, Edinr. 

Feb. 26, 1874. 
DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I have had two letters from Mr. Stansfeld, which I enclose. 
The second, you will see, is less favourable than the first, though 
not absolutely conclusive. In reply I have expressed my belief that 
the second objection that about his relation to the ' doctors ' 
can matter little, inasmuch as we can't expect anyone who takes 
up the cause to be a darling of the doctors or to remain one 1 ; but on 



1 We must never forget that a minority of doctors had been helpful all 
along. Years before this a petition to Parliament in favour of the women 
had been signed by nearly two hundred. 



THE QUESTION IN PARLIAMENT 409 

the other objection I have not felt able to say much against the 
experienced instinct of Mr. Lowe and himself. On the one side 
there may be a good deal in their feeling that for an ex-minister of 
the Gladstone Cabinet to move the Bill may move Disraeli to criti- 
cism, if not to opposition ; on the other it seems essential that the 
lead should be taken by an eminent and faithful man. You will 
weigh the whole matter in London and consult. 

I daresay it will be best not to publish the Memorial to Disraeli 
till the receipt of it is acknowledged. I have all the renewed signa- 
tures 1 now except the Edinburgh ones ; and these, I hope, will be 

completed today or tomorrow. 

Yours very truly, 

DAVID MASSON." 

" Stoke Lodge, 

Hyde Park Gate, W. 

Feb. 28. 74. 
DEAR Miss J EX-BLAKE, 

I could see you either on Monday or Tuesday afternoon. 
But where ? For the Local Government Board knows me no more. 

I shall be working at the Athenaeum on Monday afternoon, and 
could therefore easily call on you anywhere in town. 

I could see you here on the Tuesday and could make any time 
convenient, but the morning would be most so. 

Pray let me know. 

I enclose Mr. Lowe's and Mr. Russell Gurney's notes. You have 
heard from Masson, I presume. I wrote after seeing Lowe. But 
I will postpone telling you of our interview till we meet. 

Yours truly, 

J. STANSFELD. 

A sharp little illness made it difficult for Mr. Stansfeld to 
pursue the matter for a week or two, but finally we get the 

f 110Wing: " 15 Gt. Stanhope Street, W. 

March 21. 
DEAR STANSFELD, 

I am quite ready to take up the case of the women students 
if a good Bill can be framed, and I shall have to see you on Monday 

at the House. 

Ever yours, 

W. COWPER TEMPLE. 

[Telegram] " March 23rd. Cowper Temple, Great Stanhope 
Street to Miss Jex-Blake, 15 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh. 

Can you tell me a lawyer who knows the subject and will frame 
the Bill or advise about it." 

1 The Memorial had been originally addressed to Gladstone. 



410 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

This was apparently followed by a letter, for, at the earliest 
possible moment on March 24th, S. J.-B. sent down a note 
by hand to her solicitor : 

" DEAR MR. MILLAR, 

An eminent M.P. has undertaken to bring in an Enabling 
Bill to enable Universities to educate and graduate women on the 
same terms as men, and I have just got a letter asking me to send 
up a draft of such Bill. As you are the best authority on such 
matters I should like to see you at once about it, and should be 
extremely glad if you could sketch out a draft beforehand, as time 
is of the greatest moment. 

Could I see you if I called between 12.30 and i p.m. ? 

Yrs. truly, 

S. JEX-BLAKE." 

The Draft Bill seems to have been posted that afternoon, 
and the following day another telegram arrived : 

" March 25th. Rt. Hon. Stansfeld, London, to Miss Jex-Blake, 
15 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh. 

I have seen Mr. Cowper Temple and we advise you to come and 
see him." 

So of course S. J.-B. travelled up to London next day. 

[Diary] " March 26th. Summoned up to London about Cowper 
Temple's Bill. He very kind, plenty of good will. . . . Stansfeld 
admirable. Gurney do., only from health inactive. Lowe, Gallio- 
like." 

A day or two later S. J.-B. dined with the Cowper Temples 
and details were threshed out. 

" I am so glad," writes Miss M'Laren, " that you have succeeded 
so well, and find Mr. Cowper Temple such a nice man and energetic 
besides, and trust all may go well. I am not afraid of opposition 
at all, but what I do fear is that at this late season it may not get 
through." 

To Miss Jex-Blake : " Broadlands. 

April 15. 

. . . Mr. Ewing consented when I explained the Bill to him, and 
his name with that of Mr. Gurney and Dr. Cameron are on the back 
of the Bill. I am not very sanguine of success if a serious opposition 
should be manifested, but I have hopes that the moderation of the 
measure may have the effect of not calling forth the latent antagonism 
that exists against the cause. 



THE QUESTION IN PARLIAMENT 411 

But whether the Bill passes or not, it must advance the cause, 
for at least we shall have a good debate on the subject. 

I talked to Sir W. Maxwell when I first thought of undertaking 
a Bill and I found that he took the view that in his representative 
position as Rector of Edinburgh University he ought not to take a 
part in a question in which there is so much difference of opinion 
and warmth of feeling. I have fixed Friday 24th for the second 
reading, but am not at all sure that it can come on that evening as 
there will be many questions before it. 
I return to London tomorrow. 

Yours [illegibly] , 

W. C. TEMPLE. 
The names on the back of the Bill are 

Mr. Cowper Temple, 
Mr. Russell Gurney, 
Mr. Orr Ewing, 
Dr. Cameron." 

There was much discussion as to the desirability of keeping 
quiet about the Bill, and allowing it to slip through, if possible, 
without arousing all the energies of the opposition. 

" 10 Regent Terrace, 
Edinburgh. 

April i, 1874. 

DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

Best thanks for your letter. From what it says and from 
what I had heard before to the same effect from Miss M'Laren, I 
have not the least doubt of the practical wisdom of the limitation 
of the Bill to the Scottish Universities. The difficulty of taking 
such differently-constituted Universities along in the Bill has struck 
me so far ; but I had not thought of the special difficulty that might 
arise from jealousy of the divided powers of the University of London. 
But, while our Bill goes on alone, there is no reason why the other 
universities should not be moving, each for itself, and all such move- 
ment would help GUIS. 

I am not so sure of the policy of silence about our Bill. Miss 
M'Laren will have told you that Dr. Lyon Playfair has alarmed our 
people here by informing them of it, and asking their opinion. 
There is a Committee on watch with power to call a Senatus meeting 
when the Bill is perfectly known. Possibly, when they see it, they 
may feel inclined to do nothing, seeing that it only legitimises the 
power the University thought it possessed when it passed the regula- 
tions ; but no one can tell. All that Dr. L. P. wanted was advice 
for himself ; and nothing, even of that kind, can be done collectively, 



412 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

except by Senatus as the Committee is for observation only. Still 
the matter is public ; and individuals may be at work. Also the 
fact and drift of the Bill have been mentioned in the newspapers, 
e.g. by the London correspondent of the Glasgow Mail. If, in these 
circumstances, you are of opinion that the memorial to Mr. Disraeli* 
may be published, please return my copy with the signatures ; and 
I will send it to our three papers here where perhaps it ought to 
appear first. But you will, of course, act with the advice of Mr. 
Cowper Temple and others ; and I won't publish till you give the 
word. Anyhow it might be best to return the memorial to me. 
A telegraph from you would then tell me to publish any day if 
not immediately. 

Yours very truly, 

DAVID MASSON." 

" April 15, 1874. 
DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

After reading today the Scotsman's report of the introduction 
of the Bill, and observing how quietly and cautiously it seems to 
be framed (' to remove doubts as to the powers ' etc.) 1 1 have thought 
it better not at once to publish the memorial. If there is any possi- 
bility that the Bill will be let through without opposition, our 
memorial, as more strongly expressed, might interfere with this. At 
all events I have thought it most prudent not to be in a hurry, but 
to wait a day or two till we see how Mr. C. T.'s Bill is received 
among the probable enemies. Very likely they will move against 
it somehow, secretly if not publicly ; and, if we find this, then our 
memorial ought to come out as a contribution to the argument. 
You will perhaps hear how Dr. Lyon Playfair and Mr. Gordon act 
in London : I will observe here. Perhaps I am prudent in excess ; 
but, once the memorial is out, it is past recall. 

Yours very truly, 

DAVID MASSON." 

" 83 Belgrave Road, S.W. 

i6th April, 1874. 
DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

The bill has been introduced by Mr. Cowper Temple, and 
my name is one of those on its back. If it could be smuggled through 
it would of course save a great deal of time and trouble, but I am 
afraid it is of no use to think of that. The moment it is published 
the bill will be telegraphed to all the Scotch papers, and every 



1 " A Bill to Remove Doubts as to the Powers of the Universities of 
Scotland to admit Women as Students, and to grant Degrees to Women." 



THE QUESTION IN PARLIAMENT 413 

professor in every university, and almost every medical man through- 
out Scotland, will perceive its drift. Moreover you must remember 
that the Lord Advocate is member for Glasgow and Aberdeen 
University, and will have to keep his constituents well posted up 
* in everything affecting their interests. If I see anything concerning 
the measure in the Scotch papers, I shall forward it to you, and 
meanwhile remain 

Yours very sincerely, 

CHARLES CAMERON. 
Miss Jex -Blake." 

So the glove was thrown down, and, as Dr. Cameron had 
predicted, the news of it was instantly flashed from Dan to 
Beersheba. In a very short time 65 petitions in favour of 
the Bill were presented to Parliament, three of these being 
from the Town Councils of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Lin- 
lithgow. There was also one from the City of Edinburgh, 
and one from 16,000 women. The most important, perhaps, 
was from twenty-six Professors of Scottish Universities, 
including eight (out of fourteen) Professors of the University 
of St. Andrews, among them the Rev. Principal Tulloch, 
and thirteen Professors of the University of Edinburgh. If 
Glasgow was poorly represented in number, the women had 
all the more reason to be proud of the weight of the two names, 
John and Edward Caird. There was also a petition from 
those Edinburgh lecturers who had actually taught the women. 

Against the Bill there were four petitions : 

1. From the University Court of Edinburgh. 

2. From the Senatus of Edinburgh University. 

3. From the Medical Faculty of the Senatus (probably 

identical with 2). 

4. From the University of Glasgow. 

The second reading of the Bill was fixed for April 24th, but 
at the urgent request of Dr. Lyon Playfair, member for 
the University of Edinburgh, it was postponed to a later date 
("in order that his University might have time to consider 
the subject " !) when the pressure of business made it im- 
possible to secure any day : or, as Miss M'Laren had 
predicted, it failed to " get through." And so the whole 
question was practically shelved for another year. 



414 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

There was an interesting debate on the motion, however, 
on June 1 2th, 1874, when able speeches were made by Mr. 
Cowper Temple, Mr. Stansfeld and others, the two members 
for Edinburgh (Town and Gown) providing an almost dramatic 
contrast. 

Mr. M'Laren (Town), hard-headed, shrewd man of business, 
bluntly declared that " if it were a question to be decided by 
the intelligent inhabitants of Edinburgh, nine-tenths would 
vote in its favour. ... If two or three of the professors 
would only take a voyage round the world, the whole ques- 
tion would be satisfactorily settled before they returned. 
(Laughter.) Where the male students paid three or four 
guineas for each class, the ladies paid eight or ten guineas, 
so that money was no obstacle. There was no difficulty, 
in fact, except want of will, and that arose from medical 
prejudice, at least that was the opinion of the great 
majority of the people in Edinburgh." 

Dr. Lyon Playfair (Gown), scholar, courtier, man-of-the- 
world, had a harder task. Even Punch was moved to 
sympathy with him " as one in a perplexity between his 
constituents and his convictions." 

In any case the whole question had entered on a new phase, 
there was fresh enthusiasm for the cause, and, on the other 
hand, those who had looked upon the idea of women doctors 
as an amusing absurdity, were roused to perturbation and 
alarm. 



CHAPTER XVIII 
THE LONDON SCHOOL OF MEDICINE FOR WOMEN 

IT is a terrible thing for a hasty, impulsive, faulty human 
being to be placed as S. J.-B. was at this time, in a difficult 
position on a slippery ridge, as it were in the eye of the 
whole world. It has been said before that few people ventured 
to " lecture " her : she liked to hear the truth, and, when her 
friends were prepared to risk all, she took their faithful 
dealing magnanimously, often nobly : but somehow she made 
adverse criticism very difficult. It was said of her that she 
would have made an excellent advocate,- she had so keen 
an eye for the strong points of her own position and the weak 
points of those of her adversaries ; and it is only fair to say 
that, in conversation with her, many people might well be 
simply carried away. In a sort of esprit d'escalier or juge- 
ment cTescalier they might see the other side of the question, 
and sometimes they wrote a qualifying letter to say so ; 
but we know how few people are prepared in life to take 
that amount of trouble in a matter that does not intimately 
concern themselves. It is so much easier to sympathize 
with those who confide to us their troubles and difficulties, 
and then to vent our jugement cTescalier on the man we meet 
in the street below. In the course of her life S. J.-B. got more 
than her share of that kind of sympathy. 

We have seen that, in the matter of her examination the 
year before, she did not admit the justice of her rejection. 
She was supported in this attitude by the opinion of three or 
four lecturers and examiners in the subjects for which she 
had entered, who had read her papers and had cordially 



416 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

pronounced them in writing to be up to or above the pass 
standard. Hundreds of people had, of course, expressed to 
her their belief that she had not been fairly treated, and 
their sympathy had steadily intensified the impression in 
her own mind. She would have accepted Huxley's verdict 
loyally, if all the papers handed in at that examination could 
have been submitted to him. No one who reads one paper 
only can possibly say except by an exercise of faith in his 
fellow creatures whether worse papers have been accepted 
and better rejected, or no. It would have been strange indeed 
if Huxley had not had that amount of faith in his colleagues. 

From the moment of Dr. (afterwards Sir Wyville) Thomson's 
appointment to the Chair of Biology, S. J.-B. had dreaded 
him as an examiner, on the ground that he was altogether 
adverse to the women. " You will receive no insolence from 
him," Professor Tait had written to her in 1871, " but I fear 
that is all I can say, though it is something." And previously, 
" although he is not in your favour, he is not a man to take 
any mean or unfair advantage." 

She ought, of course, to have accepted this judgment once 
for all as that of a just man, but from the time of her examina- 
tion the conviction that she had been unfairly treated never 
wavered, though the whole matter was, she thought, a thing 
of the past forever. 

In a great controversy, however, nothing may ever be 
safely assumed to be a thing of the past. It seems to be 
buried forever, but it lies at the mercy of any chance turn of 
the spade. 

And this brings us back to the point where Dr. Lyon Play- 
fair, " in a perplexity between his constituents and his con- 
victions " those constituents meaning to all intents and 
purposes the " two or three Professors " for whom the Member 
for Edinburgh had recommended a voyage round the world 
as a means of solving the whole difficulty Dr. Lyon Playfair 
had so availed himself of the machinery of Parliament as to 
shelve the whole question indefinitely. 

One quite realizes that by this time it was war to the knife 
on both sides, and one refrains from unduly criticising either ; 
but it is S. J.-B. whose life we are considering, and there 



LONDON SCHOOL OF MEDICINE FOR WOMEN 417 

can be no doubt that for her overworked and overstrained 
as she was the situation was very hard to bear. 

And now the discussion in Parliament, literally bringing 
the question " into the range of practical politics," had 
stirred up all the latent objection to the idea of women doctors, 
and had brought every weapon into play. One can dimly 
conjecture the number and variety of assaults that must 
have been made on the leading newspapers, and it is small 
wonder if some of them were sorely unsettled, so much so 
that " the pulpit spake pure Canterbury in the morning and 
Geneva in the afternoon." 

Even the Times began to talk of " all the delicacies and 
best charms " of woman's nature, and took occasion to say 
in a leading article, " It is a little amusing, indeed, that one 
of the Ladies who had rendered herself most conspicuous, 
should after all have failed under the test of examination." 
The writer did not add perhaps he had not been informed 
that three of the fellow-students of that conspicuous Lady 
had successfully passed the examination in question in a 
previous year ; but the playful taunt if taunt it was was 
more than the generous spirit of one of those successful candi- 
dates could stand. She wrote an impulsive letter, mentioning 
S. J.-B. by name, and explaining that it was " devotion to 
our cause which led to her failure," that " she had borne the 
brunt of the battle, and had spared her fellow-students all the 
harass and worry of the struggle, and had thus enabled them to 
enjoy the leisure requisite for passing their examinations." 

Of course the writer should have consulted S. J.-B. before 
sending this letter to the Times, but apparently it never 
occurred to her that the defence might not be acceptable to 
the one defended. In any case, the letter came upon S. J.-B. 
like a thunderbolt, and she committed the great and crowning 
mistake of her life, she wrote a letter to the Times, implying 
in effect that in the matter of the examination, she did not 
believe she had been fairly treated. 

It was quite a temperate letter from her point of view, 
but as her brother had said she was throwing pebbles at 
a fortress, and, what was worse, throwing them under the 
gaze of the whole civilized world. 

2D 



418 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

If Professor Crum Brown had done the Women's Cause a 
service by denying to Miss Pechey the name and privileges 
of Hope Scholar, S. J.-B. had now repaid that service to him 
and his colleagues, full measure, pressed down, shaken together 
and running over. 

Under the mighty ^Egis of the University of Edinburgh, 
the examiners replied, and Professor Huxley himself entered 
the controversy in defence of his friend, Dr. Wyville Thomson, 
who was away on the " Challenger" Expedition at the time. 

Miss Pechey was only restrained by prudent friends from 
publishing a generous letter in which she expressed her con- 
viction that, if Professor Huxley had examined the Edinburgh 
students, 90 per cent, of them would have failed, and she 
added a paragraph which shows at least how differently a 
great institution may look when regarded from two different 
points of view : 

" It is really amusing to those who know anything of the consti- 
tution of the University to find [the Examiners] gravely suggesting 
that [S. J.-B.] could have appealed to the Medical Faculty, the 
Senatus, and the University Court. Tte names have an imposing 
sound, but, when one comes to consider, the Medical Faculty resolves 
itself into the medical examiners, the Senatus (at that time of the 
year, before the arts professors had returned for the winter) into 
the Medical Faculty, whilst the University Court is in reality the 
mouthpiece of one member who I fear would tuin a deaf ear to any 
appeal from Miss J ex-Blake." 

Well, there it was ! If the cause could have been killed, 
this mistake might probably have killed it. If S. J.-B. 
could have been crushed, this mistake would have crushed 
her. But the cause was intensely vital, and S. J.-B. was 
tough. 

One falls back once more on Newman's brave and com- 
forting words : 

" The very faults of an individual excite attention he loses, but 
his cause (if good, and he powerful -minded) gains this is the way 
of things, we promote truth by a self-sacrifice." 

S. J.-B. was just starting on her holiday when the corre- 
spondence took place, and, although Miss Stevenson and 
Mrs. Thorne both wrote to tell her of the " irreparable " 



damage it had done, most of her friends and supporters were 
disposed to let her enjoy her holiday if she could in peace. 
So, in the silence and repose of a sojourn in Perthshire, she 
laid her future plans. 

As early as December 6th, 1873, Dr. Anstie had written 
to her : 

" DEAR MADAM, 

I am afraid I do not see my way to any practical plan at 
present. 

" At Westminster it is quite possible that my colleagues would 
consent to separate classes. But the fatal objection is want of 
space ; and I could not, I feel sure, persuade them to try the experi- 
ment of mixed classes. 

I fear there is no way, except by the ladies raising money enough 
to found a school for themselves. In that case I, and I think others, 
would be willing to go out of our way to afford them teaching. But 
the difficulties about clinical teaching seem very great. 

I will talk the matter over with my colleague, Mr. Cowell, and 
write to you again. ..." 

" 16 Wimpole Street, 

Dec. 1 2th. 

DEAR MADAM, 

Three or four days of complete prostration with influenza 
have prevented me from finding time to talk with Mr. Cowell. 

Bat as regards the Westminster Hospital School I think it very 
unlikely that any proposition would be entertained with regard 
to surrendering our position as teachers of male students. . . . 

I think (so far as I can at present judge) that your best course 
would be to take some premises in London, and build a thoroughly 
good school, fit for first-class teaching of the theoretical courses. 
I believe if that were done you would get teachers. And with that 
solid evidence of sincerity and energy in your work I believe the 
hospitals, or some of them, would give way and grant you hospital 
practice. 

But this is only my first crude idea. Believe me. 
Yours very faithfully, 

FRANCIS ED. ANSTIE." 

It is impossible to over-estimate the whole-heartedness with 
which Dr. Anstie took up the cause. There are numerous 
letters in which he records the various advances and checks 
which he experienced in the course of his advocacy. For a 



420 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

time he had hopes of inducing his own School to admit women, 
but the matter got wind, and an adverse medical paper raised 
all that latent opposition with which the pioneers were becom- 
ing so familiar. From this point of view the discussion in 
Parliament did, for the moment, as much harm as good, and 
finally we find Dr. Anstie writing : 

" 1 6 Wimpole Street, 
July 2. 

DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

For the moment we are thoroughly defeated, and it may be 
well to rest on our oars for a little time. You will probably have 
beard of the rejection by the Senate of U. L. of the proposition about 
degrees, and I wrote to tell you that I also found it was impossible 
to induce my colleagues at Westminster to open a female department 
of the School. 

I think there is nothing for it now but to make up your minds 
to form a school for yourselves. Were that once done I do not 
think there would be any very great difficulty in obtaining clinical 
instruction and in becoming recognized by some of the corporations. 

I am sorry to have had no better luck as your champion. But 
there is no doubt just now for some reason or other, a strong current 
of adverse opinion. As I said before I think you and the other 
ladies should take counsel with your friends, and (without renewal of 
the discussion in public) should set to work upon the scheme of a 
school. 

I feel little doubt that, if you could show the positive evidence 
of energy and resource afforded by the establishment of a separate 
school in London, you would get both sympathy and teaching help. 
Believe me, 

Yours sincerely, 

F. E. ANSTIE." 

Mr. Norton, too, of St. Mary's Hospital, assured S. J.-B. 
that " a thoroughly good school might be organised, apart 
from the existing schools, but with friendly lecturers gathered 
from any or all of them." This suggestion obviated the very 
real difficulty of getting fresh lecturers " recognised." 

Mrs. Anderson still thought the time was not ripe : Mrs. 
Thorne was in Paris 1 : the other students were scattered far 
and wide for the holidays. From every point of view it seemed 

1 Mrs. Thorne on her return tried to dissuade S. J.-B. from making the 
attempt ; but, on finding how much had been done, she gladly cooperated 
in raising funds. 



LONDON SCHOOL OF MEDICINE FOR WOMEN 421 

imperative that the winter session should be secured : so, 
with the help of the two men mentioned above and of Dr. 
King Chambers, S. J.-B. simply did the work herself. 

The record is brief enough, there has been no entry in 
the diary since June 23rd : no reference to the Times con- 
troversy at all : 

" August nth. Tuesday. To London in one day [from Perth- 
shire]. To Hampstead. Rested one day. 

August 1 3th. Thursday. To Anstie and Norton. Both en- 
couraging and helpful." 

Follows another of those sheaves of blank pages which 
always indicate intense activity or preoccupation ; and her 
book, Medical Women, just touches on "an almost incredible 
amount of search, enquiry and disappointment " ; there are 
various stray lists of lecturers, possible, probable and certain ; 
and then we proceed without farther entry to : 

" Sept. 15th. Actually signed lease and got possession of 30 
Henrietta 1 Street. Rigged up some kind of beds and slept there 
that night, Alice coming from Wales to help me." 



Here there is a footnote : 

" Miss Irby also came for a night one day this month, grand, 
quiet, strong." 

Another blank page or two, and then : 

" Oct. 9th. Friday. Entered into 32 Bernard Street, 2 Mother 
and all. (She nearly extinguished by mattress !) 

Oct. 1 2th. Monday. Opening of London School of Medicine for 
Women." 

There is no farther entry till 1875. We owe to a stranger, 
however, the following pleasant description of the School as 
it was then : 

" For the early existence of an institution like this School of 
Medicine no more appropriate home could in all probability be found 
within the wide area of London than the curious old house in Hen- 
rietta Street. In a central position, within easy reach of museums 
and libraries, but retired from the bustle of noisy thoroughfares, a 



1 The name was afterwards changed to Handel Street, and then to 
Hunter Street. 

2 The house S. J.-B. had taken as her private residence. 



422 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

range of spacious rooms stretches a long front towards the green 
sward of an old-fashioned garden. Apartments admirably adapted 
for the purpose of lecture halls ' give,' as the Americans say, from 
underneath a broad verandah on this pleasant outlook. Cosy in 
winter, cool in summer, and undisturbed by the sounds of external 
life always, these rooms should be highly favourable to philosophic 
contemplation. In the upper story there is only one above the 
ground-floor are several smaller apartments suitable for museums 
and reading-rooms." Daily News, March 13, 1877. 

How deep was the impression made upon Miss Irby by that 
brief visit we gather from a letter written twenty years later 
(on July 5th, 1894) : 

" I was on the point of writing to you after the prize-giving at 
the London School of Medicine for Women. A visit to those 
premises always recalls to me those few days with you when you 
stood there alone in almost bare walls, establishing the fort. You 
would wish nothing better than that the School should go on as 
it is going on, friends and foes being drawn into it. But I always 
burn with the recollection of your first days there." 



CHAPTER XIX 
THE RUSSELL GURNEY ENABLING ACT 

IT was at this stage that Mrs. Anderson's help was so in- 
valuable to the great venture. She had an assured position 
social and professional in the metropolis ; and her name 
carried the weight that belongs to a sane and shrewd 
and able personality. It is impossible to over-estimate the 
good she had done to " the Cause " by simply showing that 
a woman can be a reliable and successful practitioner. She 
had founded a small hospital for women ; but she still 
thought that the time for the creation of a good medical 
school for women had not come, that it would have been 
better to wait till public opinion was more distinctly in 
favour of women doctors : and she would have fostered the 
growth of public opinion by encouraging women to obtain 
foreign degrees, and to practise in England as unregistered 
physicians and surgeons. 

She was strengthened in this position by the fact that 
S. J.-B. was not the Founder she would have chosen : she 
judged the Edinburgh campaign by its net result as regarded 
the immediate object at which it had aimed, and, so far as 
Edinburgh University was concerned, that net result was 
failure. There were those, moreover, who assured her, not 
without a measure of truth, that Miss Jex-Blake's impulsive- 
ness (" want of judgment," " want of temper," she told 
S. J.-B.) had done great harm in Edinburgh. She and her 
informants alike failed, perhaps, at the moment to realize how 
that same impulsiveness (mistakes and all) had formed the 
picturesque element that made the popular appeal, how 



424 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

that same impulsiveness had roused and had borne the brunt 
of the latent opposition which must have manifested itself 
sooner or later under the wisest management. 

There is abundant contemporary evidence to this effect. 
Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi wrote from America : 

" You have fortunately been able to interest a much larger and 
better class of people than have ever bestirred themselves in the 
matter here. The list of governors of your School is quite imposing. 
You at least have had the advantage attaching to a conspicuous battle 
with real and dignified forces engaged on each side ; whereas here, 
this question, as so many others, has rather dribbled into the sand." 

Miss Pechey, too, after delivering a lecture in Yorkshire 
a year later, wrote : 

" I couldn't conclude without saying that all we had done towards 
opening up the medical profession to women was due mainly to 
Miss Jex-Blake, who had got all the abuse because she had done 
all the work, in fact all along she had done the work of three women 
or (with a grin at the phalanx of men behind) of ten men ! This 
brought down the house." 

" Mrs. Garrett Anderson is a fine instance of an individual 
success," said one of the physicians who assisted the move- 
ment in those early days ; " but Miss Jex-Blake fights the 
battle, not for herself, but for all." 

Of course an individual success cannot but assist a move- 
ment of the kind quite as surely as any other contribution. 

One thing the two pioneers had in common, a fine 
honesty and truthfulness : much plain speaking passed 
between them : and, if it had been possible for two such 
different natures to see things eye to eye, no want of candour 
or breadth of view on either side would have prevented it. 
Here is a sample of their correspondence : 

" Hampstead. 

2ist August, 1874. 
DEAR MRS. ANDERSON, 

If I kept a record of all the people who bring me cock and 
bull stories about you, and assure me that you are " greatly injuring 
the cause," I might fill as many pages with quotations as you have 
patience to read, but, beyond defending you on a good many 
occasions, I have never thought it needful to take much notice of 
such incidents, still less to retail them to you. 



THE RUSSELL GURNEY ENABLING ACT 425 

Nor do I much care to know whether or no certain anonymous 
individuals have confided to you that they lay at my door what 
you call " the failure at Edinburgh," inasmuch as the only people 
really competent to judge of that point are my fellow-workers and 
fellow-students, such as Professor Masson, Professor Bennett, Miss 
Stevenson, Mrs. Thorne, Miss Pechey, Dr. Watson, and Dr. Balfour, 
and I do not fancy that it is from any of these that you have heard 
the comments in question. 

It can, as I say, serve no purpose whatever to go into this sort 
of gossip which is very rarely indeed founded on any knowledge of 
facts ; but, quite apart from any such discussion, I am more than 
willing to say that if, in the opinion of a majority of those who are 
organizing this new school, my name appears likely to injure its 
chances of success, I will cheerfully stand aside, and let Mrs. Thorne 
and Miss Pechey carry out the almost completed plans. 

So much for your second objection [to joining the Council of the 
School] which I have taken first, because I feel that the other is 
for your own consideration and Dr. Anstie's, and that it is needless 
for me to say anything on the point. 

In conclusion let me say that I never said it ' did not signify ' 
whether you joined the Council (though I did say that I believed the 
School was already tolerably secure of ultimate success.) I think it 
of very great importance, both for your credit and ours, that there 
should, as you say, be no appearance of split in the camp, and I should 
greatly prefer that your name should appear on the Council with Dr. 
Blackwell's and those of the medical men who are helping us. 
Believe me, 

Yours truly, 

'SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE." 

So Mrs. Anderson joined the Council, taking no part in 
the daily life and work of the School, but bringing to the 
new venture excellent qualities in which S. J.-B. was lacking, 
among them the valuable gift for bearing in mind who are 
the people worth conciliating, the people with whom one 
simply must not quarrel. 

S. J.-B., on the other hand, brought an amount of practical 
capacity and experience which the reader can estimate for 
himself. We have seen what she expected and got from 
her solicitor in the matter of the draft of a Parliamentary Bill : 
it is not to be supposed that she was less successful with 
printers, nor with plumbers, carpenters and others. She knew 
exactly how quickly a proof might be expected in an emergency, 



426 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

and she knew what the printing ought to cost. If there was 
anything about the printed page that struck the eye as " odd," 
she had her finger on the technical defect in a moment, and 
saw that it was put right. She loved drawing up specifi- 
cations for tanks, etc., and making her drawing to scale : 
carpentry was an unfailing joy, nuts, bolts, staples, screws 
were as familiar to her as were bourgeois, pica, leads, and 
other mysteries of the printer's craft. " I like working for the 
Doctor," an Edinburgh joiner said in later years, " she knows 
what she wants, and she knows when it is well done " ; but 
of course it was only a competent and conscientious workman 
who could rise to this view of the case. Fortunately life 
provides a good many of these : when S. J.-B. met one, 
she valued him as he deserved. 

Recalling the early days of the School at a meeting of the 
Governing Body more than twenty years later, Mr. Norton said: 

" Miss Jex-Blake had come to him in 1874 after leaving Edinburgh, 
and he had then expressed the opinion that if funds were raised 
and a school established of which all the teachers were recognized 
by the Examining Boards, the Apothecaries' Society would be 
obliged to admit its students to examination. By the middle of 
October Miss Jex-Blake had succeeded in obtaining 1300 and in 
renting 30 Handel Street for the purposes of a School of Medicine 
for Women. It was her great energy which succeeded in so promptly 
carrying out the work of starting the School." 

" Mrs. Anderson said she recollected that in those early days she 
had been timid and had considered the time had not yet arrived 
for establishing a separate School of Medicine for Women. To 
organize a School on the slender sum of money raised by Miss Jex- 
Blake required great optimism. ..." 

So it did. It required much more than optimism. It 
required a unique capacity for directing and supervising every 
atom of work done, a unique capacity for getting a full and 
fair penny's worth out of every penny, a unique capacity 
for finding workers who would put their shoulder to the 
wheel, and do things for love. Chief of these workers always 
was herself. 

After the first Prize-giving Miss M'Laren writes : 

" L[ouisa] Sftevenson] and I have just been saying that no one 
but you could have done all that work on Wednesday. But indeed 



THE RUSSELL GURNEY ENABLING ACT 427 

there is almost nothing that you don't do better than everyone 
else." 

Few even of S. J.-B.'s opponents would have denied that 
this was true. In everything connected with Board and 
Business meetings she was an expert. To say one had been 
trained under her was for many years an invaluable testi- 
monial among those who knew. Her enthusiasm was com- 
bined with a clear-sighted grasp of every detail of the 
situation. Repeatedly one finds Cabinet Ministers and other 
busy people saying, " I won't look at the documents till 
you come and give me the thread," " I can't begin to write 
the paper till you come and talk me into it," or words to 
that effect. 

Valuable qualities these : but not necessarily the qualities 
that create the pleasantest possible atmosphere for those 
who have been in the habit of slipping through life easily. 
There must have been a good many then as later who would 
have been glad on occasion to deal with someone a little less 
business-like. 

In any case the thing was launched, Mr. Norton accepted 
the office of Dean x ; there was a staff of able lecturers ; and 
twenty- three students joined during the first year. Mrs. 
Anderson and others brought much needed financial help ; 
Lord Shaftesbury distributed the prizes at the end of the 
first winter session ; and Lord Aberdare presided at the first 
meeting of the Governing Body. So far all went well. 

Many were the congratulations from Edinburgh and St. 
Andrews, mingled naturally with regrets that the little social 
centre at 15 Buccleuch Place seemed permanently broken 
up. Professor Lewis Campbell and Principal Tulloch were 
sure the situation as regarded their University had been 
greatly simplified by the creation of a good School ; and 
Dr. G. W. Balfour wrote : 

" I only regret that you will be so far beyond my reach that it 
will be impossible for me to cooperate actively in your future educa- 
tion, though I shall always be very glad to do anything I can 
for you." 



1 To the great loss of the medical women as to many besides Dr. 
Anstie died suddenly on September i2th. 



428 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

This was one of the rare blank cheques on futurity that 
are destined to be redeemed to the last farthing. 
Professor Masson, too, was keen as ever. 

" 10 Regent Terrace, Edinr. 

Oct. 23, 1874. 
DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I had purposed when in London to give myself the pleasure 
of a visit to the new premises, and to hear from yourself all about the 
school and its prospects ; but I was up on the business of some 
researches, and had to spend my days, almost to the last, at the 
British Museum or Record Office. One day I had a glimpse of you 
in a cab passing the British Museum gate, but too fast and too far 
off to be stopped. Mrs. Masson who is to be in London for a few 
days more will certainly make her way to Henrietta Street. 

I was very glad indeed to hear of so much success in organizing 
the new School, and glad also to hear several medical men I met in 
London speak of it not only approvingly on their own account, but 
also with a kind of conviction that it would settle matters. Are 
there not several rocks ahead however ? And what about the 
Apothecaries and their disposition ? May they not be acted upon 
by those opponents in the profession whose opposition is now likely 
to take the form of permitting women to qualify themselves under 
a different title to that given to men. The conservatives of the 
University of London Senate will probably promote this current 
of opinion. 

With best regards to all Edinburgh friends with you. 
Believe me, 

Yours very truly, 

DAVID MASSON." 

Dr. Masson had put his finger precisely on the difficulty. 
It was still necessary to secure two indispensable conditions 
of success, I. Qualifying Hospital Instruction, and 2. Recog- 
nition by some Examining Board. It is clear that even 
Mr. Norton had no idea when he first espoused the cause 
how great this double difficulty would prove. Applica- 
tion was made to every one of the nineteen Examining 
Boards, and to every one application was made in vain. The 
Hospitals proved equally obdurate. " Why should this 
University be the corpus vile ? " Dr. Lyon Playfair had 
asked in Parliament the year before : and this very human 
and comprehensible cry was doubtless echoed by every 
Examining Body in the land. 



THE RUSSELL GURNEY ENABLING ACT 429 

S. J.-B. was determined not to let the public forget the 
question, and in March 1875 she had an article in the Fort- 
nightly, which Mr. Morley (now Lord Morley) had accepted 
very cordially. 

" It will give me the most entire satisfaction," he wrote, 
" to join the Governing Body of the New School of Medicine 
for Women, and I shall not grudge whatever time may be 
necessary for taking part in its proceedings. I thank you for 
your invitation." 

Once more the hopes of the women centred in Parliament. 
On March 3rd, 1875, Mr. Cowper Temple again brought 
forward his Enabling Bill, and a long debate ensued, but the 
Bill was lost by 196 votes to 153. On March 25th he returned 
to the charge with a Bill to permit the registration of the 
degrees of the Universities of France, Berlin, Leipzig, Berne 
and Zurich, where such degrees were held by women. This 
was simply an extension of a concession in the Medical Act 
of 1858, by which any persons in practice in England with 
foreign degrees at that date were allowed to register. It was 
found impossible, however, to obtain the support of Govern- 
ment to this measure, and no day could be secured for a second 
reading, so the matter was again deferred. 

It was not to be expected that the students would go on 
indefinitely taking theoretical classes that led to nothing, 
and the future was beginning to look dark when at last a 
step forward was made. 

Mr. Stansfeld, Mr. Cowper Temple, and Mr. Russell Gurney 
were all the kind of friends with whom one would go tiger- 
hunting, and no one of the three showed any intention of 
backing out. On the 1 6th of June, in answer to a question 
of Mr. Stansfeld's, Lord Sandon admitted in the name of the 
Government that the subject of the medical education of 
women, only very lately submitted to Government, demanded 
their consideration ; and he undertook that it should be 
carefully considered by the Government during the recess, 
so that they should be enabled to express definite views with 
regard to legislation upon it in the next session. 

In the meantime Mr. Simon, in the name of the President 
of the Privy Council, had addressed a letter to the President 



430 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

of the General Medical Council requesting the observations 
of that Council on Mr. Cowper Temple's Bill, and indeed on 
the whole subject of the admission of women to the medical 
profession. 

The General Medical Council took up the question at last 
in all seriousness, and the discussion lasted three days, during 
which many remarkable things were said on both sides. 
Finally a report was adopted and presented to the Privy 
Council to the effect that, 

" The Medical Council are of opinion that the study and practice 
of Medicine and Surgery, instead of affording a field of exertion 
well fitted for women, do on the contrary, present special difficulties 
which cannot be safely disregarded ; but the Council are not prepared 
to say that women ought to be excluded from the profession." 

In the autumn of 1875 a fresh hope was raised, owing to a 
really brilliant suggestion of Mr. Simon's. He bethought 
himself that those doctors who wished the women to have a 
different qualification from that of men might be willing to 
allow them to enter for the Licence in Midwifery of the College 
of Surgeons. Now this Midwifery Licence, strangely enough, 
was a regular qualification, involving the same medical 
curriculum as the M.R.C.S., and entitling those who held 
it to put their names on the Medical Register, and to practise 
legally with full rights as doctors. There was no reason why 
those women who had a complete set of certificates from 
Edinburgh should not go in for it at once, and forthwith 
become qualified general practitioners. It was not a very 
dignified way of entering the profession, but it did seem to 
be a way. 

"Thursday, Nov. nth. Today saw Simon again. He thinks 
they would admit us for Midwifery Licence with present certificates, 
not for M.R.C.S. though expressly same [certificates] required 
in Regulations. Better to get on the Register anyhow it seems 
to me ? 

Only, could it choke off anything better ? Hardly. If told that 
was open and refused, half our case gone. Besides any existing 
Exam, better than a special one. 

Shall ask K[ing] Ch[ambers] tomorrow. 

Nov. 1 2th. Homme propose! K[ing] Ch[ambers] out of 
town. . . . 



THE RUSSELL GURNEY ENABLING ACT 431 

To see Sir J. Paget tomorrow. 

Bertie 1 been here today. Quite agrees, get anything you can, 
ask for more by and bye. 

In fact one's position would be far stronger after one's certificates 
had been accepted for the one, when identical are required for the 
other. Ah, well ! Qui vivra verra many things ! . . . 

Saturday, Nov. i3th. Sir J. Paget this morning, with Dr. A. 
He very kind and courteous, infinitely more of a gentleman than 
most. 

He decidedly of opinion that we could not get admitted to the 
M.R.C.S., but probably might to the L.M. He at least evidently 
thought we ought, and thought most of the Council would think 
so too. They meet apparently on Dec. I4th, and he advises us to 
send in application before that, and then, if granted, we can be 
examined by end of December. 

Fancy an Exam, in Midwifery only putting one on the Register ! . . . 

Tuesday, i6th. Saw Sir James Paget again at his request. 
He thinks we had better not apply before the meeting, but give 
application to Critchett to present, if desirable at the time. . . . 

Wednesday iyth. Saw Critchett. Most friendly and whole- 
hearted willing to raise the question of M.R.C.S. if we liked, but 
I advised one step first, then leverage for next. . . . 

Chambers not quite satisfied about L.M. but thinks it on the 
whole best for the cause (' perhaps not for yourselves,') to take it 
if we can." 

So those three brave women, Mrs. Thorne, Miss Pechey 
and S. J.-B. proceeded to rub up their Midwifery, and mean- 
while the authorities of the College took the opinion of counsel 
as to their legal power to grant or refuse the application. If 
no one else prospered by that long and wearing struggle, 
certainly the lawyers did ! On this occasion they earned 
their salt by declaring " that the College had power to admit 
women under its supplemental charter, and could be compelled 
by legal process so to examine and grant certificates, . . . 
that the Medical Act clearly considered a holder of such 
certificates a licentiate in midwifery, and as such entitled 
to register." 

" Friday, 2ist. Jan. My 36th birthday. Just half my life since 
I began independently. So curious to look back on cogitations of 
i8th birthday ! But even then I had a presentiment of ' sunshine 
and storm.' 

1 Miss Bertha Cordery, now Mrs. S. R. Gardiner. 



432 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

It seems as if this year was really to gain (tho 1 in rather mesquin 
shape) what I have been fighting for in England for 7 years Regis- 
tration. 

College of Surgeons on jih Jan. decided on advice of their counsel, 
Mr. Beaver, that they could not exclude women from the licence 
in Midwifery, so we three seniors have sent in our certificates, etc. 
given to Critchett on application on Dec. 4th, presented by 
him on Jan. yth." 

On March I7th, the women were told that their certificates 
had been accepted, but, on the public announcement of this 
fact, the whole board of examiners resigned. In relating the 
circumstances a year later, Mr. Stansfeld wrote that " since 
then there had been no examiners and no examination." 

" Perhaps after all it is as well," wrote Miss Pechey from Bir- 
mingham, where she now held a post at the Women's Hospital 
under Mr. Lawson Tait, " perhaps after all it is as well, as it gives 
us a stronger case for Parliament, and that licence would have been 
a sorry thing to practise upon. ..." 

After suggesting a great scheme of a new " National Uni- 
versity," she concludes, 

" I suppose you can't think of any way in which I could earn 
some money ? I am beginning to wonder what I shall do when 
I leave here : I can't begin to practise till I have had more mid- 
wifery. 

" I have only one other resource to suggest now this College of 
Surgeons has failed, viz., that I should go over to Ireland, take that 
Licence in Midwifery and then try to force the Registrar to register 
it, if he would not do so at once, by legal measures. Qu'en pensez- 

vous ? 

Yours aff . 

E. P." 

This is simply quoted to show the state not indeed of 
despair, but of desperation, which these gallant women had 
reached. One can sympathize with this cri du coeur from 
S. J.-B.'s diary : 

" Here comes Miss Irby's note this morning, wanting a hospital 
for the wounded at Serajevo. . . . Oh, dear, how I should love 
to go I It would probably be just the making of me as a surgeon, 
and I have such a sort of wild feeling of wanting to ' break out,' 
of having been sair hadden doun by many bubbly jocks, by the 



THE RUSSELL GURNEY ENABLING ACT 433 

constant fighting, by Mother's frequent illnesses, etc., etc. I feel 
as if it would be an intense relief to break right away into half savage 
parts and do hard rough work and breathe ! 

And then how nice it would be with Miss Irby. ... I want to get 
away from mental strain and excitement, to bodily hard work. 

And what magnificent practice it would be I " 

" U. D. P. against Serbian idea. Thinks my Mother would die 
in my absence and I never forgive myself. 

Also I should hurt ' the cause ' by doctoring men. 

I doubt both propositions, but can't disprove either. 

My brain is in a sort of dull ' waiting ' condition, ' quo Deus vocat.' 
Well, isn't that best ? Yes, if thoroughly honest. 

I suppose the constant worry and constant thwarting have made 
me almost wild to break away for a bit. I feel somehow as if my 
mind were all strained, and this better than anything would give 
it back its tone." 

Miss Irby's idea came to nothing for lack of funds, but in 
any case, of course, S. J.-B. could not have gone. It was she 
who held in her hands all the parliamentary threads, and 
she was looking anxiously for some practical outcome from 
Lord Sandon's promise of the year before. On January 1 4th, 
however, Mr. Cowper Temple wrote : 

" DEAR Miss BLAKE, 

The Government are not prepared to tell me whether they 
will introduce any Bill next session on the subject of the medical 
registration of women, and therefore it will be necessary for me 
to bring in my Bill again at the commencement of the session. . . ." 

S. J.-B. thought it worth while, however, to remind the 
Government tactfully of their promise, and she had learned 
by bitter experience to keep every possible iron in the fire. 
So a deputation from the London School of Medicine for 
Women, headed by Lord Aberdare, and including herself and 
Mrs. Anderson, waited on the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, 
Lord President of the Privy Council. The mission was ably 
voiced by Lord Aberdare, Mr. Stansfeld, and Mr. Forsyth, 
M.P., Q.C., whose name now appeared on the back of Mr. 
Cowper Temple's Bill ; but, although courteously received, 
the deputation elicited no farther encouragement. 

In these circumstances, Mr. Cowper Temple again intro- 
duced his " Foreign Degrees " Bill, but fortune did not favour 

2E 



434 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

him in the matter of the ballot for dates, and, in the mean- 
time, S. J.-B. writes in her diaiy : 

" Saturday, May I3th. Saw Russell Gurney [who was now 
Recorder of London]. Found Government had intimated to him 
that he should bring in Bill enabling all nineteen bodies, to be 
shown to General Medical Council on 24th. 

// this passes ! 

Might graduate at Edinburgh after all." 

On the 5th of July Mr. Cowper Temple's Bill came on for 
second reading, but was withdrawn after debate upon a 
statement from Lord Sandon that the Government were 
prepared to support the Recorder's Bill. Even then anxiety 
was by no means at an end, for the Government were not 
prepared to make the Bill their own and find a day for it, 
and any persistent opposition would have been almost neces- 
sarily fatal to its passing at so late a time. One can picture 
the surprise with which S. J.-B. received the following letter : 

" 8 Palace Gardens, W. 

21 July, [1876]. 
DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I saw Lord Shaftesbury yesterday and he intends to give 
notice on Monday to move the second reading on Tuesday. 
The third reading will probably follow in a day or two. 
All that we shall then have to wait for will be the Royal Assent. 
Always sincerely yours, 

RUSSELL GURNEY." 

On August 1 2th the Bill became law. Henceforth no 
University nor Examining Board could be in any doubt at 
all as to its own powers. Those mysterious depths were at 
least no longer " an uncharted sea." 

On August 7th Miss Pechey writes : 

" Has our Bill received the Royal Assent ? If so, I suppose Mrs. 
Thorne and I might apply any time to Edinburgh, though I don't 
suppose she would consent to say what I intend to. I mean simply 
to ask them whether now they have the power, they intend honour- 
ably to fulfil the contract they made with me in 1869. It does not 
matter to me when I send in the question, as we can't be examined, 
I believe, till next April. Isn't it so ? But of course we had bettei 
not apply till the Arts Professors are back. 

Ever yours affect. 



THE RUSSELL GURNEY ENABLING ACT 435 

Edinburgh, however, did not prove encouraging even to 
its own matriculated students, so Miss Pechey accompanied 
by Miss Shove went to Ireland in September to see what 
could be effected there. She was very cordially received, 
though many with whom she had to deal were quite unaware 
of the existence of the all-important Baby Act ; and one can 
imagine the joy with which, after much labour, she wrote to 
report that both the Queen's University and the King's and 
Queen's College of Physicians had consented to examine 
women, subject only to their complying with the ordinary 
regulations. " Miss Pechey has done wonders," wrote Mrs. 
Thorne. 

The University regulations required attendance at four 
courses of lectures in one of the Queen's Colleges (at Cork, 
Belfast and Galway), and four professors at Galway agreed 
to deliver these ; but, owing mainly as happened so often 1 
to the opposition of one influential man, the Council of the 
College interposed and vetoed the arrangement. 

Fortunately the Irish College made no difficulties, and to 
that body belongs the credit of being the first to grant to 
women and above all, to these women the long-deferred 
privilege of Registration. " I cannot realize," wrote Mrs. 
Thorne to S. J.-B. a few weeks later, " that an examining 
body is absolutely open to us." " You have been the main- 
spring of the seven years' struggle, and to you we are all 
deeply indebted for the result." 

Before passing on, we must record one pleasant distraction 
which that summer had afforded in the appearance of Mr. 
Charles Reade on the scene, deeply interested in " the fight," 
and very anxious to obtain materials for his Woman Hater. 
There are numerous letters from him to S. J.-B., asking 
information about this happening and that : and he spent 
many mornings at her house, studying the archives. The 
novel achieved no small success by running its course in 
Blackwood's Magazine, within the very gates, so to speak, 
of the enemy's citadel. 



CHAPTER XX 
AT LAST 

WHILE all this business was pending, Miss M'Laren, rendered 
incredulous by her long family experience of parliamentary 
life, that a Bill introduced so late could really pass had 
written glowing descriptions of the advantages offered by 
Berne, and Miss Pechey had almost resolved to go there for 
the M.D. As the regulations of the Irish College were 
exacting in the matter of hospital work, she resolved to carry 
out this intention in any case as a preliminary measure. 

" I shall be very glad," she writes, " of another good winter's 
hospital. I hope you will join me in this, so that we may keep 
together. I think I should send in the Berne degree here [in Ireland] 
when I had got it." 

The two friends were most desirous that Mrs. Thorne 
should join them on this expedition for old sake's sake ; 
but family claims made this impossible. 

Well, it was something to break away, even thus far, and 
be mere students again. For the moment S. J.-B. and Miss 
Pechey may almost be said to have been resting on their 
oars. Nothing more arduous was required of them than 
preparation for professional examination ! 

It was on Wednesday, November 1st, that, accompanied 
by Miss Clark (now Dr. Annie Clark), they entered Switzer- 
land, a white world, as it chanced, for snow had already fallen. 
The diary begins again almost from the moment of arrival : 

" Excellent dejeuner [at Bernerhof] 12.30. Then I lay down. 
E. P. and A. C. went out exploring. Wonderful energy of youth ! " 



AT LAST 437 

They all proceeded at once to interview professors (Pro- 
fessor Masson had sent a delightful introduction), and forth- 
with began to attend lectures and cliniques, and to complete 
the theses which had been begun in England. S. J.-B. took 
as her subject Puerperal Fever, she having unhappily experi- 
enced an outbreak of that disease at Boston. The thesis was 
clear and exhaustive at the time, but of little permanent value, 
as the infective nature of the fever was not yet recognized, 
and treatment everywhere was mainly on a wrong scent. 

She suffered terribly from neuralgia, the result of past and 
present strain, and work proceeded with difficulty. On 
December 20th Miss Pechey and Miss Clark went home for 
Christmas. 

The diary has been brief and painful reading, but the 
writer revives just in time : 

" Tuesday [Dec.] 26th. Nearly seven hours' work. Splendidly 
well. Accepted for examination Jan. loth. 

Thursday 28th. Slept splendidly. For first time for weeks 
without anodyne. 

Wednesday. N. Schultz called. Very nice. To walk with me 
before exam, next Wednesday. Rather made me nervous with her 

Pity- 
Friday. . . . Letter from U. D. P., begging me not to hurry 
' if I fail it can't be kept secret.' Are they all in league to shake 
my nerves ? 

Saturday [Jan.] 6th. E. P. still in London. Glorious day. 
Tuesday gih. From 5 a.m. rather nervous got better in day 
and did 9 hours' work. Good head all through thank God ! 

10 p.m. How very happy or very wretched I shall be this time 
tomorrow ! I really feel as if I ought to be able to pass as far as 
knowledge goes. tho' not brilliantly, but I am in despair about 
Langhans, and in less degree about others. Still they will surely 
manage not to pluck me for mere want of German ! Yesterday I 
felt almost as if I should fail, tonight I hope I shan't, but with 
trembling. . . . 

En, dear, if I succeed, how I shall (half) laugh at past funk ! 
if I fail, I feel as if I need never laugh again. (And yet, played 
patience half an hour just now rather than be beat ' ill to beat ' 
not a bad motto !) And, if I'm not beat, fancy this being my last 
night without M.D. 1 

Wed. loth. Nothing from E. P. or A. C. Wonder if latter has 
come. 



438 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Very curious my sort of duplex feeling, (a) If I could only feel sure 
of passing, I should pass, i.e. not being nervous. (6) // I felt sure 
I should be sure to fail, (superstition !) A sort of unworthy 
Setebos feeling, I think. 

Undertake for me ! 

And He has ! Thank God ! Every exam, fairly creditable, which 
is worth twice a scratch. 

Now to see how much better an M.D. sleeps than other 
people ! " 

" i3th Jan. 

Brighton. 
MY DARLING, 

Words cannot express my thankfulness at your success, and 
release from anxiety. I did not fear because I did not see why 
they should be unjust, but I am more than glad that it is settled. 

I ought to have scolded you some days ago for more grapes. I 
am very forgetful, and I really sleep so well that I do not require 
them. 

Well, dear, I am quite unsettled with the good news. Hoping to 
meet so soon, and with great congratulations from Tom, and Hetty, 
and Carry, and more love than a letter will take, ever your loving 
Mother, 

MARIA EMILY JEX-BLAKE. 

I heartily echo your ' Thank God.' I am so thankful I cannot 
settle." 

A few weeks later Miss Pechey and Miss Clark also passed 
the examination. 

" You will like to hear," writes Miss Pechey, " that Professor 
Hidber told Miss Clark that the Professors were much pleased with 
your exam, and said it was evident that you had studied well. . It 
is more satisfactory, I think, to hear it indirectly like that than if 
they had told you so. 

Miss Clark says she is very glad you answered better than I did. 
So am I : I only wish I had answered better for the credit of my 
countrywomen. ' ' 

It still remained to get on the English Register through 
the newly opened portal of the Irish College. S. J.-B. and 
Miss Pechey spent some time in London, reading and attending 
the Brompton Hospital, where Dr. Symes Thompson proved 
very helpful. 



AT LAST 439 

There is a sheaf of blank pages in the diary, and then : 

" Sunday, May 6th. Rugby. 

' One fight more, the worst and the last ! ' Oh, dear, if I pass 
this Exam. I shall deserve all I may get if I ever go in for another ! 

Since Nov. ist., indeed one might say since September ist, 
hardly a day of rest and respite, but brain worked at highest pressure 
often when almost a blank. 

Now it is over and ' waiting for the verdict.' 

Off tonight for Dublin with E. P. Dr. A[tkins] also to join. 
' Omne ignotum pro magnifico.' The various tests loom vague and 
large. Diagnosis at bedside, horrible, though enormously helped 
by Brompton experience. Recognition of drugs and things under 
microscope. 4 written exams. 2 hrs. oral, etc., etc. 

I feel as if I really had fairly mastered my subjects and must know 
more than the average medical practitioner just fledged, not to 
say have more sense. 

But the stake is so enormous. A pluck would be so perfectly 
awful after all antecedents. 

But in spite of my work, my brain is wonderfully well and clear." 

" Monday, May jth. 9.45 p.m. Books closed after 4^ hours' 
reading and examination, not to be opened probably till all is 
over ! 

Be the fates propitious, as I really think they ought, ... I the 
most comfortable of the three. ' Where angels fear . . . ? ' No, 
I rather think on the principle of ' While the child, etc.' 

I've done my utmost, and results are God's." 

One is thankful to record that results were safe in His 
hands (as indeed S. J.-B. would have said they must have 
been whatever the examiners had decided). Two or three 
days later the three women, with a number of men, were 
solemnly summoned to the Board Room, " repeated declara- 
tion after Registrar, then signed book, and Dr. Hayden, as 
Vice-President, took the hand of each and ' admitted ' us 1 " 

" Oh, dear, after long travail, good repose ! " 

" All dreadfully overwrought and tired. E. P. and I came to 
fisticuffs over Mrs. A.'s Memorial to London University. Pair of 
fools ! " 

A characteristic telegram went off at once to Mrs. Jex- 
Blake : 

" Success just declared for all three of us." 



440 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

And within an hour this was followed up by a letter : 

"... We are all so happy ! The Exam, has been pretty stiff. 
Yours lovingly, 

S. L. J. B. M. D. L. K. Q. C. P. I." 

The waiting Mother sends a mere scrap by return : 

" I don't know how to be thankful enough that all is so well thro'. 
Nothing will seem a trouble now. God bless you, 

Ever your loving Mother. 
All going well with Pony, Turk, me, etc." 

And on the heels of this all the other congratulations pour 
in. " If I could I would ring the bells from Bow to Beersheba," 
writes a friend and patient. 

One almost feels that, if the bells had known the whole 
story, they would have rung of their own accord. 



CHAPTER XXI 
THE ROYAL FREE HOSPITAL 

THE friendly reader will feel, without doubt, that the year 
1876-77 had done something to justify its passage, so far as 
the women were concerned, but the year 1876-77 was giving 
more than this. S. J.-B.'s main ideal, " Not me but us," 
remained to be realized. The fundamental requisite, training 
in a large General Hospital, was no longer practically attain- 
able in Great Britain. A handful of women had scaled the 
coveted height by means of steps cut, as it were, in ice that 
melted behind them. It remained to prepare a permanent 
way for those who were following on. And the year 1876-77 
was destined to give this too. 

Mrs. Anderson and others had been endeavouring to obtain 
admission for women students to some of the wards of the 
London Hospital, and for a time their efforts had seemed 
likely to prove successful. They ended in the failure to 
which all the patient workers were becoming so accustomed, 
but meanwhile " that which was for " the women " was 
gravitating towards them." 

Before the end of 1876 Mr. Stansfeld had written : 

" Private. 

DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I will bear the London University in mind as soon as I see 
anybody. . . . 

I met Mrs. Garrett Anderson at dinner the other day ; she did 
not seem to have much hope or plan about the School in any way. 

I have however something to tell you that I think you will be 
rather pleased to hear. Mrs. Stansfeld and I went to Clapham 



442 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

today to call on the Hopgoods, with whom we had become friendly 
at Whitby : and Mr. Hopgood is Chairman of the Board of the 
Grays Inn Lane Hospital. We found them both with its, but strange 
to the question. 

I am to send Mr. Hopgood something to read, and he is to con- 
sider whether anything is possible there ; he does not appear to be 
in awe of the staff. 

Just as I had begun to talk the Editor of the Contemporary Review 
[? Nineteenth Century] came in and listened and then expressed 
general sympathy in a timid way, but asked me if I would write 
him a paper shewing a practical way and outcome ; and I undertook 
at once to do so. 

The paper I can manage though I am glad to think I shall be 
likely to see you before I send it ; but in dealing with Mr. Hopgood 
I very much wish you were here. . . . What time in January shall 
you be back, probably time enough for us to act together in the 

matter. 

Yours truly, 

J. STANSFELD." 

In subsequent letters Mr. Stansf eld writes : 
" Jan. 5th. 77. I shall not consult anyone if I can avoid it. I 
think you and I have the best chance of managing it alone." 

" Jan. 13. 77. I congratulate you seriously and sincerely ; it 
was time to get that particular anxiety off your mind, and to be 
M.D. at all events. . . . 

I will defer what I may have to say till we meet ; but we'll win 
and no mistake." 

" Stoke Lodge, 

Hyde Park Gate, W. 
Thursday evening. 

[Feb. oth. 77.1 
DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

I have your letter, but feel a little doubtful about seeing Dr. 
Chambers until after Sunday when I am to see Mr. Hopgood. 

You may judge of what that interview should be, how hopeful 
and how critical, by his letter just received, which I copy on the 
other side. 

I think that you ought to be with me on Sunday if possible. I 
see there are plenty of trains. 

We might be with him say at 3 p.m. If you would come here 
and lunch at 1.30 1 would drive you down. 

Pray telegraph reply tomorrow that I may write and let him 

know. 

Yours truly, 

J. STANSFELD." 



THE ROYAL FREE HOSPITAL 443 

Follows the copy of Mr. Hopgood's letter : 

" I shall be at home all Sunday and glad to see you. . . . We 
dine at 5. 

I see my way so far clear that on receiving a formal application 
from your Association it shall be without delay submitted to our 
Weekly Board, and I think they will forthwith summon a special 
meeting of the Committee of Management, whose decision will be 
final for the current year \ My wish may be father to the thought, 
but I think that if you can make some such proposition as that we 
talked of we have a good prospect of success. 

My wife feels such a deep interest in the success of the movement 
that she wished me to say that if you think it desirable to form a 
guarantee fund, her name may be put down as a subscriber or 
guarantor to the extent of 100." 

There is no record of that interesting and critical Sunday, 
but all seems to have gone as Mr. Stansfeld would have 
wished, for a week or two later Mr. Hopgood writes to 
S. J.-B., " I heartily wish that every success may attend 
this movement, if so I know to whom it will be chiefly due." 

4 

During S. J.-B.'s preoccupations the School had been in 
other hands. 
On March I3th Mr. Stansfeld writes, 

" DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, 

Have you noticed the article in the Daily News of today on 

the London School of M. It is not written in our interest, you 

are not mentioned and I not much ; but there is a list of names 

rather new to me, omitting, however, Lord Aberdare, a true friend. 1 

It looks as if tomorrow were pretty certain. 

Yours truly, 

J. STANSFELD." 

1 A very true friend was Lord Aberdare. Here is a delightful letter 
written a few months later : 

" Glen Tulchan, Advie, N.B. 
June 23. 1877. 

DEAR Miss JEX-BLAKE, I yield to your request an annual subscription 
of ^10. IGS. for 5 years, including the present but with the same Caveat 
which St. Peter made to Pope Gregory when he prayed that that virtuous 
heathen Trajan might be admitted into Paradise viz ' that you make 
no more such requests.' For I find extreme difficulty in refusing applica- 
tions for so good a work, and my ' engagements ' are heavy. By this 
post I must send a reluctant refusal to the hardworking promoter of an 

Ever sincere* Yours. 



444 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Close on the heels of this letter came a telegram : 

" Mar. I5th. Right Hon. J. Stansfeld, London, to Miss Jex-Blake 
13 Sussex Square, Brighton, 

London Free Hospital have unanimously accepted my proposal. 
Come before ten o'clock Saturday. I go out half past ten." 

Once more there was great rejoicing, and Mr. Stansfeld 
forwards to S. J.-B. a cordial letter from Mrs. Anderson : 

" March 19. 77. 
DEAR MR. STANSFELD, 

As I was not able to join in the cheer which I am glad to 
hear was given for you at the School on Saturday, will you please 
accept my very heartiest thanks for your grand success at Gray's 
Inn Road. We all owe more to you than to anyone. I do not 
imagine there will be any difficulty about the 700 a year for five 
years. I shall hope to be able to contribute ^50 a year as my share. 
Yours very truly and gratefully, 

E. G. ANDERSON." 

One thing more that wonderful year had given. Miss 
Edith Shove, who had accompanied Miss Pechey on the 
mission to Ireland, had made formal application to the 
University of London for admission to medical examination 
and degree. In February Mr. Smith Osier moved in the 
Senate that her request should be granted, and the motion 
was carried by 14 votes to 7. The majority consisted of the 
Chancellor (Lord Granville), Vice-Chancellor (Sir John Lub- 
bock, M.P.), Lord Kimberley, Dr. Billing, Mr. Fitch, Sir 
William Gull, Mr. Heywood, Mr. Hutton, The Master of the 
Rolls (Right Hon. Sir G. Jessel), Right Hon. R. Lowe, M.P., 
Mr. Osier, Sir James Paget, 1 Lord Arthur Russell and Dr. 

1 The following interesting letter shows that Sir James Paget's attitude 
at this time was not that of a partisan but of a just man : 

" I, Harewood Place. 

Hanover Square, W. 

DEAR MR. STANSFELD, Feb - z6 ' l8 ?7- 

I intend to go, if possible, to the Meeting of the University Senate 
on Wednesday that I may vote against hindering the entrance of Women 
into the Medical Profession. I think them sadly mistaken in wishing for 
it, but I see no sufficient grounds on which they can justly or usefully be 

Believe me most truly yours, JAMES PAGET. 

The Rt. Honble. James Stansfeld, M.P." 



THE ROYAL FREE HOSPITAL 445 

William Smith. The minority consisted of Lord Cardwell, 
the Dean of Lincoln, Mr. Goldsmid, Sir William Jenner, Dr. 
Quain, Dr. Sharpey and Dr. Storrar. 

S. J.-B. received the intelligence in the following note 
from Dr. Archibald Billing, the father of the profession, who 
had taken his own degree at Oxford in 1818 : 

" 34 Park Lane, 

1/3/77- 
" DEAR FRIEND, 

All right. I was at my post and gave my opinion rather 
freely. We had a majority about two to one, but you shall have 
the minutes as soon as printed. Some of the medicos rather recanted. 

Yours sincerely, 

A. BILLING." 1 

One last storm was raised in Convocation about the action 
of the Senate, on the ground that it dealt with the Faculty 
of Medicine only, but this final obstruction only proved the 
truth of Mr. Stansfeld's wise dictum that when the hour for 
reform has come all that opponents can do is to widen its 
character or to precipitate its advent. On January I4th, 
1878, a new Charter admitting women to all degrees was laid 
by the Senate before Convocation, and was carried by a 
majority of 241 to 132. 

So much good that year had brought that annus mirabilis 
1877 one must not be surprised if it brought some evil also. 
And, to S. J.-B. personally, it dealt one heavy blow. The 
School, as her Mother said, was her living child. She had 
conceived it, brought it forth, tended it, fought for it, done 
most of the daily work it involved, with the help of a lady 
secretary she herself had trained. Until she was a qualified 
doctor, however, she did not wish her name to appear either 
on the Council or on the Governing Body. In all the early 
papers it occurs only as Trustee. 

But she had always looked forward to her registration as 

something that would initiate a new order of things. That 

platform gained, and the dust of the struggle and fight left 

behind, she expected to take officially, as Honorary Secretary, 

1 This letter may probably have been written to Mr. Stansfeld. 



446 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

the position she had filled hitherto without any recognition 
at all. Up till now she had been constantly harassed, driven, 
striving for something that always receded when it seemed 
within her grasp. No wonder if she had often been hasty, 
high-handed, difficult. Now all that, so she thought, was 
past. We recall the dreams and ideals of her youth, how 
she had longed to organize some fine new school for girls, 
of which, conceivably, she might be worthy to be the head. 

" I am beginning to hope, Mother ! If I only suffer enough 
and I don't believe mine will ever be a smooth or easy life I may 
yet be fit to be the head for which I am looking so earnestly." 

We have seen with what searchings of heart she laid aside 
this ideal for the long struggle of her medical career ; but 
from first to last she never laid aside the sympathetic interest 
in her colleagues and juniors which was perhaps the most 
striking characteristic of her professional life. Is it strange 
if she now looked forward to a realization of the whole dream ? 

In any case that realization was not to be. Her enforced 
absences in the matter of her examination had given people 
a chance to do without her. We have seen that they had not 
always found her particularly easy to work with. " You 
wouldn't let me muddle, and you wouldn't let me dawdle, and 
how could I be happy ? " one of her " daughters " used to 
cry in the radiant success of later years : and although it 
would not be fair to generalize this into a solution of the 
whole difficulty, it goes a long way to account for it. There 
were those who were thankful that things should be done a 
little less efficiently and more easily, thankful to have a 
little more say in matters for which they felt themselves 
partially responsible. There were those who looked forward 
with sinking of heart to the time when S. J.-B. would return 
and really take up the reins. 

We have seen repeatedly that she never realized the strain 
of " difficulty " in her own nature, and she always had a 
cohort of loyal supporters ; but she must have heard or 
guessed something of what was going on, for she wrote to 
Mr. Stansfeld that the task of being Honorary Secretary was 
too onerous to be undertaken except at the unanimous wish 



THE ROYAL FREE HOSPITAL 447 

of those concerned. Perhaps Mrs. Thorne Dr. Atkins 
Mrs. Anderson would care to undertake the task ? Pro- 
bably she knew for a fact that the two first named would 
refuse it ; and it must have seemed impossible that Mrs. 
Anderson overwhelmed as she was with other work would 
entertain the suggestion. 

S. J.-B. was still in Ireland when the question came up. 
Mrs. Thorne proposed S. J.-B. as Honorary Secretary, and 
someone else proposed Mrs. Anderson, both nominations 
being duly seconded. 

Mrs. Anderson was in a difficult position, and said so 
frankly. She did not wish to take an unfair advantage over 
her colleague ; but if it was to be for the good of the School ? 

Mr. Stansfeld and the Dean (Mr. Norton, who was always 
S. J.-B.'s staunch supporter) were somewhat at a loss, and 
so no doubt were others ; it was not an easy situation for 
anybody. After some talk the meeting was adjourned. 
Everything pointed to Mrs. Anderson's election. 

But, when it came to the point, this was more than S. J.-B. 
could stand. Many lesser people would have accepted the 
situation gracefully, concealing any heartburning they might 
have felt, but this was just what S. J.-B. could not do. It 
was partly a personal question, of course. With every desire 
and effort to be fair, Mrs. Anderson had always looked at 
S. J.-B.'s life and work through the wrong end of the telescope, 
so to speak, and it is not easy to appreciate fully the people 
who make no secret of the fact that they take that view 
of us. . : 

But the personal question was not all. We remember how 
warmly S. J.-B. had spoken of her colleague in the old days, 
as " running where I crawl," how she had triumphed in 
every stage of her colleague's success. She honestly felt that 
Mrs. Anderson was already too fully occupied to undertake 
so big a job, felt that, humanly speaking, Mrs. Anderson 
could only lend her name, and do the work by proxy. 

And even that does not exhaust the subject. The truth 
is that S. J.-B., to the day of her death and with all her faults, 
was an incorrigible idealist ; and Mrs. Anderson, rich though 
she was in excellent qualities, seemed to her to be lacking in 



448 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

certain capabilities of insight and imagination which out- 
weighed everything else. 

" Put me utterly aside if need be ! " she had cried in the 
self-surrender of her adolescence. 

And now she was taken at her word. But it was not easy 
to see the " need be." For a time it was blotted out by the 
bitter experience of personal opposition. 

It was a painful situation all round, but like so many painful 
situations, it called forth something fine. Mrs. Thorne was 
persona grata with all parties, and finally Mrs. Thorne stepped 
into the breach and allowed herself to be elected Honorary 
Secretary of the School. 

" About the best possible," wrote S. J.-B. in her diary, 
" with her excellent sense and perfect temper. " So much 
better than I." 

It involved a definite sacrifice, for, although Mrs. Thorne 
had taken all her classes with distinction, she had only passed 
one professional examination ; and she was not one of those 
who are content to scrape through. She had aimed at a 
London degree, and had even talked of taking her whole 
course over again in order to fulfil every requirement. Dr. 
Sewall had long since singled her out as " the doctor " in 
potentiality among the English medical women. 

Already family claims had made her pause. This new 
claim, combined with the others, proved more than she could 
withstand. She cast aside her own ambitions, and made the 
success of the School her main object in life. 

" Sweet Sackermena and her isles ! 
See how many yards and miles 
It takes to walk round Sackermena." 

A breezy way this of paraphrasing the more familiar 
passage : 

" Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gen tern." 

But what one really wants to express is, See the amount 
of work, the number of people it took to achieve this one bit 
of human evolution ! Even the many names in this book 
are culled from a great multitude. 



THE ROYAL FREE HOSPITAL 449 

It was S. J.-B. who opened the subject boldly up, and 
forced the whole world to discuss it. It was she who in the 
eye of the whole world led the Edinburgh fight to its unfore- 
seen sequel in Parliament and in the opening of the London 
School. 

Miss Pechey was a loyal and stimulating comrade through- 
out, disarming opponents by the personal charm, intelligence 
and humour which eventually opened the Irish College and 
gained the actual concession of the right of registration. 

Mrs. Thorne contributed a fine undercurrent of stability. 
It was not her way to write picturesque letters that lend them- 
selves to quotation, but it was mainly owing to her that the 
London School became a lasting and conspicuous success. 1 

Pari passu with all this, as we have seen, and antecedently 
to any of it, Mrs. Anderson was quietly showing the Eng- 
lish world that a woman can be a reliable and successful 
doctor. 

Fine records all four, and surely no less fine was the brave, 
wise, unwearying championship of Professor Masson and Sir 
James Stansfeld, without whom humanly speaking nothing 
could have been achieved at all. 

Sir James Stansfeld would not have allowed us to draw the 
line there. In an able sketch of the whole movement up to 
1877, in the Nineteenth Century, he concludes his survey with 
the following significant words : 

" One thing more remains to record. These pages will, I think, 
have presented to the reader's mind evidence of a tough and per- 
sistent and continuous struggle. Such struggles do not persist and 
succeed, according to my experience, without the accompanying 
fact, the continuous thread, as it were, of one constant purpose and 
dominant will. Dr. Sophia Jex-Blake has made that greatest of 
all contributions to the end attained. I do not say that she has 
been the ultimate cause of success. The ultimate cause has been 
simply this, that the time was at hand. It is one of the lessons 
of the history of progress that when the time for a reform has come 
you cannot resist it, though, if you make the attempt, what you may 
do is to widen its character or precipitate its advent. Opponents, 



1 In later years, as Dean, Mrs. Anderson did much for the enlargement 
and development of the School. 

2F 



450 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

when the time has come, are not merely dragged at the chariot 
wheels of progress they help to turn them. The strongest force, 
whichever way it seems to work, does most to aid. The forces of 
greatest concentration here have been, in my view, on the one hand 
the Edinburgh University led by Sir Robert Christison, on the other 
the women claimants led by Dr. Sophia Jex-Blake. Defeated at 
Edinburgh, she carried her appeal to the highest court, that most 
able to decide and to redress, the High Court of Parliament repre- 
senting the Nation itself. The result we see at last. Those who 
hail it as the answer which they sought have both to thank, in 
senses and proportions which they may for themselves decide Ml 

It would be easy to close on this note, but it is on the 
earlier part of Sir James Stansfeld's conclusion that one 
prefers to dwell. A tough and persistent struggle is indeed 
recorded in these pages it was only on working through 
the vast mass of original documents that the present writer 
formed the faintest conception how tough and persistent 
that struggle had been and yet what will strike the reader 
most is that it was emphatically not a " one man fight." 
S. J.-B. never said " I " in connection with it. " You see 
we were so splendidly helped," was her almost invariable 
comment on looking back. 

And she was splendidly helped. Not only by her fellow- 
students, by friendly professors, by the Editor of the Scotsman, 
and by those who would fain have been her patients. All 
that one was prepared to find. The amazing thing is the 
way in which when all of these were almost paralyzed by 
the strength of the opposition (yes, and by her mistakes) 
help came from somewhere. It might be the working-man, 
sending her a shilling to represent his sympathy, or the 
statesman in a London club, throwing down his newspaper 
with the determination that that woman should be baited 
no longer. In any case help came. 

Truly, as Sir James Stansfeld said, the time was at hand. 

And Newman is perfectly right when he says that, if the 
individual be powerful-minded and the cause good, the mis- 
takes actually help. They increase the talk, increase the 
interest, help to make the picture that appeals to the popular 
1 Nineteenth Century, July 1877. 



THE ROYAL FREE HOSPITAL 451 

imagination, till what has seemed to be the eccentric action 
of a single individual spreads out in waves that envelop the 
whole earth. 

Writing exactly forty years after the events just narrated 
at a moment when women doctors are proving so vital an 
asset to the nation and to humanity at large one realizes 
the difference it would have made to the whole world if Sophia 
Jex-Blake had been content to qualify abroad and to slip on 
to the Medical Register somehow, instead of throwing the 
gates wide open for all who were to follow her. 

Reference has been made above to her love of poetry, and 
of all her poems there was none she was wont to recite 
more solemnly than Kipling's Explorer : 

" Yes, your 'Never-never country' yes, your 'edge of cultivation' 
And ' no sense in going further ' till I crossed the range 

to see. 

God forgive me ! No, I didn't. It's God's present to our nation. 
Anybody might have found it but His Whisper came to 
Me!" 



PART III 



MY fame is in the hands of others. I have weighed in a nice 
and scrupulous balance whether it is better to serve men or to 
be praised by them, and I prefer the former. 

SYDENHAM. 

(Quoted in S. J.-B.'s commonplace book.) 

HAVE I named one single river? Have I claimed one single acre ? 
Have I kept one single nugget (barring samples)? No, not I. 

KIPLING. 

YOUR goodness must have some edge to it, else it is none. 

EMERSON. 




THE dramatic days were over. The task that now lay before 
S. J.-B. was to pick up all that remained of herself after the 
conflict, and settle down to practice. It is a solemn moment 
in the history of any doctor when he or she deliberately takes 
in hand the issues of life and death : mistakes can no 
more be avoided in this than in any other walk of life, 
and yet the consequences here are so much more apparently 
important. 

And if it is a solemn moment for any man or woman, it 
was surely not less so for her who for years had been a city 
set on a hill. In the course of the long struggle youth had 
quite slipped away ; her best energies were spent ; her 
nervous system was overstrained beyond the possibility of 
complete recuperation. If George Eliot could say with some 
truth that she began Romola as a young woman and ended 
it an old one, how much more might S. J.-B. have said this 
of her education in medicine. Perhaps the coward in her 
would gladly now have shunned the conflict altogether. 

Small say was allowed to that coward at any time, and at 
this juncture few even of S. J.-B.'s friends realized that 
as regarded output of energy she had already done a life's 
work. No one would have been surprised if she had died a 
few years before, in the stress of the fight ; but the human 
memory is short, and. as she had survived, almost everyone 
now looked upon the toil of the last ten years as simply the 
introduction to the volume. She was now expected to show 
how great a success a woman doctor can be. 



456 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

First came the anxious question where to settle, and, 
while she meditated on this, she was making good, at Brompton 
and wherever she could find an entry, 1 the deficiencies in her 
hospital education. 

Her original plan had been to settle in London, to foster 
the School she had founded, and at the same time to be 
within easy reach of her Mother, the Mother for whom she 
would at any moment in her life have thrown up every hope 
and plan that guided her. 

There is no doubt that this would have been in most 
respects the ideal arrangement. There is room for everyone 
in London. In those days it was absolutely essential for a 
woman doctor to settle in a town large enough to allow for 
the overwhelming proportion of patients who declined to take 
their lives in their hands, so to speak, by trusting one of their 
own sex. Even if the patient herself was willing to lean 
her whole weight on an untried plank, husbands and mothers 
stood in the way. Indeed there were girls who reckoned it 
the prime luxury involved in earning their own living that 
they became free to employ the doctor of their choice a 
woman. 

It is true that patients and still more their male relatives 
were readier to trust S. J.-B. than they would have been to 
trust most other women. Her inherent motherliness was 
not weakened by any aggressive femininity ; but on the 
other hand it is not to be supposed that she was any less 
alarming than she had been as a student. No doctor ever 
inspired greater enthusiasm and devotion than she did, but 
it was on the whole the few to whom she appealed. Her 
vein of tenderness lay too deep for the casual eye to see ; 
and many were afraid of the occasional high-handed imperious 
ways and the disregard of what people were likely to say. 

" It was like being lifted on a comet's tail," writes a patient 
to whom she had been called in an emergency in March 1878, 
" when you came in, strong and swift, with your eagle wings, 
getting over distances in a third of the time other people 
take to do it." 

J We hear of her visiting the Middlesex, Moorfields, the Royal Free, the 
Cancer, and the Children's Hospitals. 



EARLY DAYS IN PRACTICE 457 

This is admirable, and describes what many felt, but 
although being lifted on a comet's tail is exactly what many 
patients want, the treatment is not universally applicable. 

London, then, would probably have supplied S. J.-B. with 
a larger practice than she could have worked ; many friends, 
and particularly her brother, were keenly anxious that she 
should settle there; Mr. Norton always regretted her departure; 
but, now that the School had been taken out of her hands, it 
seemed inadvisable that she should remain as a looker-on. 
The difficulty was to find another place big and representa- 
tive enough : she dreaded the great midland towns. After 
much consultation, she decided on the last place on earth she 
might have been expected to choose, on Edinburgh. 

It was partly the bracing climate, partly the beautiful 
drives, partly the many friends who had stood by her so 
gallantly, that led to this spirited decision, but on the whole 
it was a mistake. The smoke of the conflict was still hot, and 
some of those who had admired her most had admired her for 
qualities which were not what they sought in a physician. 

Moreover, she was the last person on earth to play up to 
the expectations of the community in which she lived. The 
Edinburgh of those days was a more conventional place than 
Edinburgh is now, and doctors above all were expected to 
conform to a particular standard. There was a general im- 
pression that piety paid and that an interest in missions was 
a great help to success in practice. 

" You never will succeed unless you conform to these 
usages," said a friend : " You might have Edinburgh at your 
feet if you would go to church regularly and show yourself 
a religious woman," said another. 

It is needless to say that these were not the arguments to 
use with S. J.-B. Never, moreover, since the far-off school- 
days in which she had given a highly- valued shilling to " the 
Jews " had she taken any interest in missions. That vein 
in her was worked out, or transmuted into something else. 
The more she read of the old religions and she did read 
the more she found in them to admire and respect, the 
more it seemed to her that they were the fitting medium for 
the training of the people to whom they had been given. 



458 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

It must be frankly admitted too that she continued to see 
such questions in the atmosphere of the particular Evangelical 
school in which she had been brought up ; in recognizing the 
evolution of the individual of herself as an individual 
she failed to recognize the evolution of the medium ; and 
her life was so full of active beneficent interests as to leave 
scant time for the consideration of questions that did not 
at first sight appeal to her, that did not seem to be her job. 

In the Edinburgh, too, of those days, the ordinary people 
who " counted " were the people who liked things done 
" just so." It disturbed their sense of the fitting, for instance, 
that S. J.-B. should pay professional visits, driving herself 
in a pony phaeton. Altogether she was too big, too un- 
trammeled for the post. What was wanted was the woman 
who is a credit to any cause she may adopt. There are 
plenty of them now-a-days. 

Finally, S. J.-B. realized from the first that, with her 
limited physical resources, she could not combine a social 
with a professional life. Hospitality is a poor word to des- 
cribe the manner in which her door stood open to the few 
she loved, to those whom she thought she could help, to all in 
whom she recognized any sort of spiritual kinship ; but from 
ordinary social engagements she stood aloof. She refused in- 
vitations to dinner, 1 or made excuse to leave so early that 
she might better, perhaps, not have gone ; she declined to be 
lionised in any way ; and she was apt to snub those whom she 
suspected of wishing to know her from motives of curiosity. 

We must not forget how different she could be from all 
this, how radiant, how sympathetic, how full of humour 
and fun. " What a comfort it is," writes a patient at this 
time, " to see your dear supporting face 1 " " You always 
come as Hercules did to Alcestis," writes another. " Emily 
and I have often spoken of your ' How are you ? ' being like 
his, ' I am here to help.' " 

1 For the same reason she went but seldom to the theatre, unless an actor 
whom she greatly admired visited Edinburgh. When Henry Irving was 
there she would go as often as three times a week, and usually take a little 
party of friends. Louis XI. was, in her opinion, his masterpiece. For 
Miss Terry she had, like all the rest of the world, a great admiration. Of 
Ristori she used to speak almost with bated breath. 



EARLY DAYS IN PRACTICE 459 

Nor am I working up to the avowal that she was a profes- 
sional failure : she was not : in many ways she was a great 
success. But if Edinburgh like Cousin Ellie of old could 
have made "even a slight alteration" in her, she might 
almost indeed have had the town at her feet. 

She took the house 4 Manor Place, and in June 1878 she 
put her plate on the door and began. Three months later 
she started a small dispensary. Her professional isolation 
was great : Dr. Pechey was at Leeds ; the other medical 
women were in London or farther afield. A doctor in the 
early days is sorely handicapped if he cannot discuss difficult 
cases and questions with his contemporaries and seniors. 
S. J.-B. never had, except for a few days at a time, the daily 
chit-chat what students call the " shop " that is so helpful ; 
but she was not allowed to suffer. Dr. Heron Watson, Dr. 
George Balfour, and Dr. Angus Macdonald supported her 
with a chivalrous loyalty of which it is difficult to write 
calmly even now. They encouraged her to appeal to them 
at any time : they put the whole wealth of their learning and 
experience at her disposal ; and what was not a matter of 
course in those days there was not a single question in all 
the complicated domain of medicine which they would not 
discuss with her as frankly as if she had been a man. It 
must be borne in mind that in her own special subject, the 
diseases of women, her equipment was all that could be 
desired. It was not for nothing that she had worked for two 
years under Dr. Sewall at Boston. If adequate training had 
been available, she might have made a great gynaecological 
surgeon, for she had great calmness and presence of mind in 
an emergency, and her hands, though full of character, were 
small and deft. Dr. Sewall always regretted the waste of her 
potentiality in this respect. 

The following extracts are from letters written during the 
first few months of practice : 

To her Mother, 

" MY DARLING, 

I know you will be pleased to hear that I yesterday received 
fees which just completed my first 50, earned in Edinburgh in 



460 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

less than three months, and that in what they call the " empty " 
season. And what pleases me still better is that everyone of my 
patients has done well. Several have left my hands practically 
recovered, and those who are still there are all going on satisfactorily. 
And as among them were two cases to which I was called when the 
patient was described as ' dying ' (and both got well) I think I may 
very well be content. I have had 23 patients (nearly 100 visits) 
at my private house, and about as many more at my Dispensary, 
which has only been open a fortnight ; so I don't think there is 
much doubt about the ' demand ' nor about my prospects." 

To Dr. King Chambers, 

" I feel I am learning a great deal from the large variety of practice 
here. You will see from the enclosed paper that I have the help 
and support of four 1 of the best medical men in Edinburgh, and they 
are all excessively kind in giving me advice and help as often as I 
want it. No one ever had better friends and I doubt if anyone 
ever liked a profession better than I like mine. 

I find that each of my cases involves so much reading and thinking 
that I am almost anxious they should not multiply too fast." 

To Dr. (now Sir Thomas) Barlow to whom she had com- 
mended a young colleague, 

" March 24th. [1879.] 

DEAR SIR, 

I thank you very much for the kind response to my note 
which reached me this morning. I feel sure that you will find Miss 
K. grateful for your kindness and most anxious to benefit by it. 
I have had repeated cause myself in my own Dispensary work to 
be thankful for the various lessons I learned from you and Dr. Lee. 

Thank you also for the kind interest you express in my personal 
success, which indeed is all that I could desire. I have about 25 or 
30 patients at the Dispensary every day that it is opened, and I 
also have a much larger private practice than is usual at so early a 
date. I have not yet been established here in practice quite 9 months, 
and I find that I have already had about 400 visits to or from private 
patients, which I think you will allow shows the ' demand ' is a 
real one. 

As you refer to the ' general question of lady doctors ' you must 
allow me to say that I am quite sure it would have your support, 
from at any rate one point of view, if you had the least idea of the 



1 The three mentioned above, together with Dr. Peel Ritchie. In later 
years, of course, she would have added to the list, notably the names 
of Dr. (Sir Thomas) Clouston and Mr. C. W. Cathcart. 



EARLY DAYS IN PRACTICE 461 

amount of preventible suffering which women bear with rather 
than consult men in special cases. . . . 

Now I do not care for a moment to argue whether this feeling is 
right or wrong ; ... if the feeling exists it should be distinctly 
recognized as an element in the question ; and I am quite sure that 
you would be one of the very first to desire that every possible remedy 
should be brought to such needless suffering. 

In the same way I never care to argue at all about the relative 
capabilities of men and women. I mean to try to do my own work 
up to the very best of my power, and that is all that really concerns 
me. I cannot imagine any work nobler or more perfectly fascinating, 
than that of medicine, and I am very thankful to be allowed ever 
so small a share in it." 

To Mrs. Henry Kingsley, 

" I have full as much work at my Dispensary as I can manage, 
indeed I am pretty well used up on those days, but I always enjoy 
them. 

I am just going to begin a course of lectures which I hope may 
be successful. 

It is hard work altogether, but nothing to the old worries." 

Hard work indeed it was, especially when one bears in 
mind that she was urged at times to undertake confinements 
at a very considerable distance, as far off as Yorkshire. 
Moreover, being a woman, she had of course the cares of 
housekeeping, and S. J.-B. always took her housekeeping 
very seriously. 1 She was herself a good cook and an excellent 
manager, and her staff were expected to carry out her methods 
and principles loyally. If they happened to be lazy and 
unprincipled, or even easy-going, their tenure of office was 
likely to be brief. Her comfortable home in common with 
all the other gifts of the gods meant nothing to her unless 
she could share it. How heartfelt was her hospitality may 
be gathered from the following letters : 

" August isth. [? 1878.] 
DEAR Miss IRBY, 

Welcome home again ! I saw in yesterday's paper that you 
had reached England, and was going to write when your letter came. 
I shall be delighted to see you again ! I expect to be here all autumn 

1 The invaluable Alice had retired from service to join a sister in Wales. 
She and her mistress continued to correspond till the end. 



462 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

and winter (with the exception of a few days) and shall be only too 
glad to have you whenever you like best to come. Only do manage 
to give me at least a week, and let me know which time suits you 
best as soon as possible, so that I may make my plans suit yours. 

Several people are most anxious to meet you, so I will ask them to 
dinner, etc., when you fix a time ; but I hope you won't accept 
invitations much (you are sure to have dozens) as I do want you to 
get a little rest while with me, and I want to take you drives about 
Edinburgh, the country is so lovety. I shall tell everybody you 
will be too tired to go out much. 

Would you like a public meeting here ? I daresay it would help, 
though most residents are away at this season. 

Yours affectionately, 

S. JEX-BLAKE." 

" June i6th. [1879.] 
DEAR MRS. THORNE, 

I hear that your two girls are coming to Morton next week. 
Don't you think it would be very wrong to let them travel so far 
all alone ? Don't you think it is clearly your duty to come and 
stay a week or two with me when you arrive ? I should like so 
very much to see you again at something like leisure, and also to 
show you my Dispensary and all and sundry I am doing here. So 
many Edinbro' friends would like to see you ! Do try to come if 
only for a week or two ! 

I remember that the ' wonderful woman ' went to London and 
back for 24 hours once, so she can't mind travelling ! In haste 

Yours sincerely, 

S. JEX-BLAKE." 

" June i8th. 
DEAR MRS. THORNE, 

I shall be really delighted if you will come down with your 
girls and spend a week or two with me while they are at Morton. 
You and I have never had any really quiet time together since our 
student days, and I cannot tell you how much I should enjoy some 
talks with you, and how glad I should be of your advice about lots 
of things in my Dispensary and otherwise. Dr. Sewall you know 
always said you were the doctor among us, and I quite believe it. 
I wish so very often that I could ask you about things." 

To a colleague in London she writes a month or two later : 

" Your thanking me so much for a very moderate amount of good 
nature shown to Miss X., makes me wonder how you expect one to 
behave to people who are ill and poor. I am sure you yourself act 



EARLY DAYS IN PRACTICE 463 

upon the ' aux plus d6sherits le plus amour ' principle ? Seriously 
I have done very little for her beyond what I should have done for 
anybody more or less in her position, except perhaps half a dozen 
drives and dinners which I promised ' pour 1'amour de vos beaux 
yeux ' before I saw her. 

I am afraid yo\i must think me a very ungrateful person in my 
turn, for I don't say a quarter as much about your various kindnesses 
to me and my friends." 

She always had a word of brave and wise advice for 
colleagues who appealed to her : 

" I am inclined to think you had better send Miss Z. off to 
Australia. I am sure Miss Du Pre will gladly do her part if you 
write to her about it. She is now at ' Surbiton, S.W.,' no farther 
address required. 

I think you are quite wrong to think you will ' not forgive yourself ' 
if the plan does not succeed. I have long ago come to the conclusion 
that ' efforts are ours, results are God's,' and, if you don't like that 
phraseology, you can paraphrase it as you like, so long as you 
acquiesce in my conclusion that we are not to blame or worry our- 
selves if things go wrong when we have done our best. 

How I wish we could sit by that upstairs window and have a chat 
over it all ! " 

" No, life isn't a bit of a failure, and you wouldn't think so if we 
could get ten days' holiday together up in the highlands ! don't 
I wish we could 1 for I am very tired too. 

I've got to go off to Yorkshire in a few days to attend 's 

patient. . . . 

My coachman got drunk last week, and I turned him off at an 
hour's notice, and had to see to the stable myself for a day or two ! 
My whole household has been upside down, and in the midst of 
it my dear old Turk died last week, but quite quietly and without 
pain. I have a new page, and a new cook, and a new groom, 1 and 
am going to have a new housemaid, don't you pity me ? Still I 
say ' Life is good,' Can you have better testimony ? " 

Her advice on occasion could be fairly drastic : 

" Yes, I know about Miss W. Why do you let her stay i J hours 
with you ? At the end of five minutes I should take out my watch 
and say, ' Now I have just ten minutes more for you, is there 
anything you want to say ? ' That's the way to treat those sort 
of folks. 7 am not ' too good for this world.' " 

1 In place of the " coachman " ; she never had both. 



464 SOPHIA JEX-BLAKE 

Here is a rather amusing answer to a question from Dr. 
Pechey, ' Why do you recommend Vermouth ? " 

" DEAR EDIE, 

I sent off my two cards to you too hurriedly to answer about 
' Vermouth ' ! but now let me say at my leisure that I never 
heard anything more beautifully illustrative of the way stories are 
' evolved.' 

The one and only occasion when I made acquaintance with Ver- 
mouth was when one day, during a hurried call at Mrs. Nichol's, 
the dear old lady in Mr. F.'s presence, offered me some Vermouth 
as something new she had got, and insisted on my tasting it, 
which I did, and said I tho